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Toxicol Mech Methods. 2011 Oct;21(8):577-84. doi: 10.3109/15376516.2011.578170. Epub 2011 Aug 23.

Ziram activates mitogen-activated protein kinases and decreases cytolytic protein levels in human natural killer cells.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, Tennessee State University , Nashville, TN 37209 , USA.


Human natural killer (NK) cells are central in immune defense with their ability to lyse tumor cells and virally infected cells. Tumor formation and viral infection may increase if NK cytotoxic function is disrupted. Ziram (zinc dithiocarbamate) is used as an accelerating agent in the production of latex and to protect various fruits and vegetables from fungal infection. Previously, we have shown that exposure to ziram inhibits NK lytic function. Butyltin environmental contaminants, which also inhibit NK lytic function, cause rapid activations of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) and decreases in expression of the cytolytic proteins granzyme B and perforin (after 24 h) in exposed NK cells. MAPKs are important regulators of the lytic response of NK cells, and spurious activation of these enzymes by contaminants would leave the NK cells unable to respond to appropriate targets. This study examined the effects of ziram exposures on MAPKs (p44/42, p38, and c-jun-N-terminal kinase) and on levels of cytolytic proteins. Ten-minute to 6-h exposures of NK cells to ziram caused activation of MAPKs, p44/42, and p38. Exposure to ziram for 24 h caused a decrease in granzyme B and perforin levels. MAPK inhibitors were able to prevent these ziram-induced decreases in granzyme B and perforin. These results suggest that ziram-induced MAPK activation is at least in part responsible for decreased cytolytic function in ziram-exposed NK cells. Furthermore, the results indicate that these changes are in common with other environmental contaminants that have been shown to decrease NK lytic function.

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