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Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2005 Jul;289(1):H99-H107. Epub 2005 Feb 25.

EGF receptor-dependent JNK activation is involved in arsenite-induced p21Cip1/Waf1 upregulation and endothelial apoptosis.

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  • 1Evans Memorial Department of Medicine, Boston Univ. School of Medicine, Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute, 715 Albany St., Rm. W507, Boston, MA 02118, USA.


Arsenic exposure is associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis and vascular diseases. Although endothelial cells have long been considered to be the primary targets of arsenic toxicity, the underlying molecular mechanism remains largely unknown. In this study, we sought to explore the signaling pathway triggered by sodium arsenite and its implication for endothelial phenotype. We found that sodium arsenite produced time- and dose-dependent decreases in human umbilical vein endothelial cell viability. This effect correlated with the induction of p21Cip1/Waf1 (up to 10-fold), a regulatory protein of cell cycle and apoptosis. We also found that arsenite-stimulated EGF (ErbB1) and ErbB2 receptor transactivation, manifest as receptor tyrosine phosphorylation, appeared to be a proximal signaling event leading to p21Cip1/Waf1 induction, because both pharmacological inhibitors and knockdown of receptors by RNA interference blocked arsenite-induced p21Cip1/Waf1 upregulation. Arsenite-induced activation of JNK and p38 MAPK was distinct, with only JNK as a downstream target of the EGF receptor. Moreover, inhibition of JNK with SP-600125 or dominant negative MKK7 inhibited only p21Cip1/Waf1 induction, whereas the p38 MAPK inhibitor SB-203580 or dominant negative MKK4 inhibited both p21Cip1/Waf1 and p53 induction. Functionally, inhibition of p21Cip1/Waf1 induction prevented endothelial apoptosis due to arsenite treatment. Insofar as endothelial dysfunction promotes vascular disease, these data provide a mechanism for the increased incidence of cardiovascular disease due to arsenite exposure.

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