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Toxicol Sci. 2003 Aug;74(2):279-86. Epub 2003 May 28.

Nickel-induced histone hypoacetylation: the role of reactive oxygen species.

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School of Life Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, China.


The carcinogenicity of specific insoluble nickel compounds is mainly due to their intracellular generation of Ni2+ ion and its suppression on gene transcription, while the inhibition of Ni2+ on histone acetylation plays an important role in the suppression or silencing of genes. Recent studies on Ni2+ and histone H4 acetylation suggest that Ni2+ inhibits the acetylation of histone H4 through binding with its N-terminal histidine-18. It is well known that bound Ni2+ readily produces reactive oxygen species (ROS) in vivo, a critical factor inversely related with the occurrence of resistance of mammalian cells to Ni2+. Thus, we tried to find the possible role of ROS in the induction of Ni2+ on histone acetylation in the present study. We found that a high concentration of Ni2+ (no less than 600 microM) caused a significant decrease of histone acetylation in human hepatoma cells. This inhibition was shown to result mainly from the influence of Ni2+ on the overall histone acetyltransferase (HAT) activity indicated by the histone acetylation assay with the presence of a specific histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor, trichostatin A (TSA). The in vitro HAT and HDAC assays further confirmed this result. At the same time, we found that the exposure of hepatoma cells to Ni2+ generated ROS. Coadministration of hydrogen peroxide with Ni2+ generated more ROS and more histone acetylation inhibition. Addition of the antioxidants 2-mercaptoethanol (2-ME) at 2 mM or N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) at 1 mM, with Ni2+ together, completely suppressed ROS generation and significantly diminished the induced histone hypoacetylation. The data presented here prove that the ROS generation plays a role in the inhibition of histone acetylation, and, hence, the gene suppression and carcinogenesis caused by Ni2+ exposure, providing a new door for us to continuously understand the mechanism of ROS in the carcinogenicity of Ni2+ and the resistance of mammalian cells to Ni2+.

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