The need to understand the role that anthropogenic chemicals play in g
enerating germline mutations is critical, both from an ecological and
a human health perspective. Exposure to complex mixtures of urban and
industrial chemicals is widespread and we have little understanding of
the long-term implications to populations and gene pools. It has rece
ntly been suggested that minisatellite DNA mutations may be sensitive
biomarkers for induced heritable mutations in populations exposed to r
adioactive and non-radioactive contamination in their environments. Mi
nisatellite loci are attractive targets for mutational analyses becaus
e they undergo a rate of mutation much greater than unique sequence DN
A and with DNA fingerprinting many loci can be scanned simultaneously.
As a result, the technique is statistically powerful requiring relati
vely small sample sizes (compared to other in situ mutation assays) an
d is reasonably cost and time efficient. This paper will review the ap
plication of minisatellite mutation screening to the field of genetic
toxicology. (C) 1998 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.