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Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2007 Aug 1;222(3):381-7. Epub 2006 Dec 23.

Developmental and genetic modulation of arsenic biotransformation: a gene by environment interaction?

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Department of Natural Resources, Sonora Institute of Technology (ITSON), Ciudad Obregon, Sonora, Mexico.


The complexity of arsenic toxicology has confounded the identification of specific pathways of disease causation. One focal point of arsenic research is aimed at fully characterizing arsenic biotransformation in humans, a process that appears to be quite variable, producing a mixture of several arsenic species with greatly differing toxic potencies. In an effort to characterize genetic determinants of variability in arsenic biotransformation, a genetic association study of 135 subjects in western Sonora, Mexico was performed by testing 23 polymorphic sites in three arsenic biotransformation candidate genes. One gene, arsenic 3 methyltransferase (AS3MT), was strongly associated with the ratio of urinary dimethylarsinic acid to monomethylarsonic acid (D/M) in children (7-11 years) but not in adults (18-79 years). Subsequent analyses revealed that the high D/M values associated with variant AS3MT alleles were primarily due to lower levels of monomethylarsonic acid as percent of total urinary arsenic (%MMA5). In light of several reports of arsenic-induced disease being associated with relatively high %MMA5 levels, these findings raise the possibility that variant AS3MT individuals may suffer less risk from arsenic exposure than non-variant individuals. These analyses also provide evidence that, in this population, regardless of AS3MT variant status, children tend to have lower %MMA5 values than adults, suggesting that the global developmental regulation of arsenic biotransformation may interact with genetic variants in metabolic genes to result in novel genetic effects such as those in this report.

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