Micronucleus Formation Induced by Glyphosate and Glyphosate-Based Herbicides in Human Peripheral White Blood Cells

Károly Nagy, Roba Argaw Tessema, István Szász, Tamara Smeirat, Alaa Al Rajo, Balázs Ádám

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Glyphosate is the most commonly used herbicide around the world, which led to its accumulation in the environment and consequent ubiquitous human exposure. Glyphosate is marketed in numerous glyphosate-based herbicide formulations (GBHs) that include co-formulants to enhance herbicidal effect of the active ingredient, but are declared as inert substances. However, these other ingredients can have biologic activity on their own and may interact with the glyphosate in synergistic toxicity. In this study, we focused to compare the cytogenetic effect of the active ingredient glyphosate and three marketed GBHs (Roundup Mega, Fozat 480, and Glyfos) by investigating cytotoxicity with fluorescent co-labeling and WST-1 cell viability assay as well as genotoxicity with cytokinesis block micronucleus assay in isolated human mononuclear white blood cells. Glyphosate had no notable cytotoxic activity over the tested concentration range (0–10,000 μM), whereas all the selected GBHs induced significant cell death from 1,000 μM regardless of metabolic activation (S9). Micronucleus (MN) formation induced by glyphosate and its formulations at sub-cytotoxic concentrations (0–100 μM) exhibited a diverse pattern. Glyphosate caused statistically significant increase of MN frequency at the highest concentration (100 μM) after 20-h exposure. Contrarily, Roundup Mega exerted a significant genotoxic effect at 100 μM both after 4- and 20-h exposures; moreover, Glyfos and Fozat 480 also resulted in a statistically significant increase of MN frequency from the concentration of 10 μM after 4-h and 20-h treatment, respectively. The presence of S9 had no effect on MN formation induced by either glyphosate or GBHs. The differences observed in the cytotoxic and genotoxic pattern between the active principle and formulations confirm the previous concept that the presence of co-formulants in the formulations or the interaction of them with the active ingredient is responsible for the increased toxicity of herbicide products, and draw attention to the fact that GBHs are still currently in use, the toxicity of which rivals that of POEA-containing formulations (e.g., Glyfos) already banned in Europe. Hence, it is advisable to subject them to further comprehensive toxicological screening to assess the true health risks of exposed individuals, and to reconsider their free availability to any users.

Original languageEnglish
Article number639143
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
Publication statusPublished - May 24 2021


  • cytotoxicity
  • formulation
  • GBHs
  • genotoxicity
  • glyphosate
  • micronucleus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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