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Toxicol Sci. 2009 Oct;111(2):424-36. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfp162. Epub 2009 Jul 27.

Comparative functional genomic analysis identifies distinct and overlapping sets of genes required for resistance to monomethylarsonous acid (MMAIII) and arsenite (AsIII) in yeast.

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Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.


Arsenic is a human toxin and carcinogen commonly found as a contaminant in drinking water. Arsenite (As(III)) is the most toxic inorganic form, but recent evidence indicates that the metabolite monomethylarsonous acid (MMA(III)) is even more toxic. We have used a chemical genomics approach to identify the genes that modulate the cellular toxicity of MMA(III) and As(III) in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Functional profiling using homozygous deletion mutants provided evidence of the requirement of highly conserved biological processes in the response against both arsenicals including tubulin folding, DNA double-strand break repair, and chromatin modification. At the equitoxic doses of 150 microM MMA(III) and 300 microM As(III), genes related to glutathione metabolism were essential only for resistance to the former, suggesting a higher potency of MMA(III) to disrupt glutathione metabolism than As(III). Treatments with MMA(III) induced a significant increase in glutathione levels in the wild-type strain, which correlated to the requirement of genes from the sulfur and methionine metabolic pathways and was consistent with the induction of oxidative stress. Based on the relative sensitivity of deletion strains deficient in GSH metabolism and tubulin folding processes, oxidative stress appeared to be the primary mechanism of MMA(III) toxicity whereas secondary to tubulin disruption in the case of As(III). Many of the identified yeast genes have orthologs in humans that could potentially modulate arsenic toxicity in a similar manner as their yeast counterparts.

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