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Environ Health Perspect. 2002 Dec;110 Suppl 6:931-41.

Characterization of gene expression changes associated with MNNG, arsenic, or metal mixture treatment in human keratinocytes: application of cDNA microarray technology.

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Center for Environmental Toxicology and Technology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, USA. .


The identification of molecular markers related to critical biological processes during carcinogenesis may aid in the evaluation of carcinogenic potentials of chemicals and chemical mixtures. Work from our laboratory demonstrated that a single treatment with N-methyl-N'-nitro-N-nitrosoguanidine (MNNG) enhanced spontaneous malignant transformation of the human keratinocyte cell line RHEK-1. In contrast, chronic low-level exposure of cells to arsenic alone or in a mixture containing arsenic, cadmium, chromium, and lead inhibited malignant conversion. To identify changes in gene expression that influence these different outcomes, cDNA microarray technology was used. Analysis of multiple human arrays in MNNG-transformed RHEK-1 cells, designated OM3, and those treated with arsenic or the arsenic-containing metal mixture showed unique patterns of gene expression. Genes that were overexpressed in OM3 included oncogenes, cell cycle regulators, and those involved in signal transduction, whereas genes for DNA repair enzymes and inhibitors of transformation and metastasis were suppressed. In arsenic-treated cells, multiple DNA repair proteins were overexpressed. Mixture-treated cells showed increased expression of a variety of genes including metallothioneins and integrin 4. These cells showed decreased expression of oncogenes, DNA repair proteins, and genes involved in the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway. For comparison we are currently analyzing gene expression changes in RHEK-1 cells transformed by other means. The goal of these studies is to identify common batteries of genes affected by chemical modulators of the carcinogenic process. Mechanistic studies may allow us to correlate alterations in their expression with sequential stages in the carcinogenic process and may aid in the risk assessment of other xenobiotics.

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