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Toxicol Sci. 1999 Jun;49(2):281-9.

Arsenite alters heme synthesis in long-term cultures of adult rat hepatocytes.

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  • 1Sección de Toxicología Ambiental, CINVESTAV-IPN, México, DF.


Arsenite (As[III]) effects on the intermediate steps of heme biosynthesis were studied in adult rat hepatocytes seeded on a feeder layer of 3T3 cells (3T3-hepatocytes) and maintained for 2 weeks with culture medium non-supplemented or supplemented with 150 microM 5-aminolevulinic acid (ALA). The activities of the intracellular enzymes porphobilinogen deaminase (PBG-D), uroporphyrinogen III synthase (UROIII-S), and uroporphyrinogen III decarboxylase (URO-D), and the intermediary uroporphyrins (URO), coproporphyrins (COPRO) and protoporphyrin IX (PROTO) were determined in these cultures. The 3T3-hepatocytes maintained the activities of PBG-D, UROIII-S and URO-D during 2 weeks and ALA addition to the culture medium increased PBG-D (2-3-fold) and UROIII-S (50%) activities and porphyrin production, which accumulated as PROTO. Exposure to 3.9 microM As(III) inhibited UROIII-S activity (down to 34%), and PBG-D and URO-D activities to a lower extent; these effects were magnified by ALA supplementation. As(III) also produced an intracellular accumulation and a decreased excretion of PROTO, and a 31% reduction of the COPRO/URO ratio in the culture medium. Additionally, As(III) caused cytoplasmic vacuolization and lipid accumulation. Our results show that As(III) exposure selectively inhibits several intermediary enzymes of heme metabolism and affects the intra- and extracellular content of porphyrins and their ratio in the culture medium. They also confirm that 3T3-hepatocytes are a suitable in vitro model to study hepatic heme metabolism and its alterations by hepatotoxic chemicals.

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