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Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2009 Nov 15;241(1):90-100. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2009.08.004. Epub 2009 Aug 12.

Arsenic exacerbates atherosclerotic lesion formation and inflammation in ApoE-/- mice.

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Diabetes and Obesity Center and Institute of Molecular Cardiology, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY 40202, USA.


Exposure to arsenic-contaminated water has been shown to be associated with cardiovascular disease, especially atherosclerosis. We examined the effect of arsenic exposure on atherosclerotic lesion formation, lesion composition and nature in ApoE-/- mice. Early post-natal exposure (3-week-old mice exposed to 49 ppm arsenic as NaAsO(2) in drinking water for 7 weeks) increased the atherosclerotic lesion formation by 3- to 5-fold in the aortic valve and the aortic arch, without affecting plasma cholesterol. Exposure to arsenic for 13 weeks (3-week-old mice exposed to 1, 4.9 and 49 ppm arsenic as NaAsO(2) in drinking water) increased the lesion formation and macrophage accumulation in a dose-dependent manner. Temporal studies showed that continuous arsenic exposure significantly exacerbated the lesion formation throughout the aortic tree at 16 and 36 weeks of age. Withdrawal of arsenic for 12 weeks after an initial exposure for 21 weeks (to 3-week-old mice) significantly decreased lesion formation as compared with mice continuously exposed to arsenic. Similarly, adult exposure to 49 ppm arsenic for 24 weeks, starting at 12 weeks of age increased lesion formation by 2- to 3.6-fold in the aortic valve, the aortic arch and the abdominal aorta. Lesions of arsenic-exposed mice displayed a 1.8-fold increase in macrophage accumulation whereas smooth muscle cell and T-lymphocyte contents were not changed. Expression of pro-inflammatory chemokine MCP-1 and cytokine IL-6 and markers of oxidative stress, protein-HNE and protein-MDA adducts were markedly increased in lesions of arsenic-exposed mice. Plasma concentrations of MCP-1, IL-6 and MDA were also significantly elevated in arsenic-exposed mice. These data suggest that arsenic exposure increases oxidative stress, inflammation and atherosclerotic lesion formation.

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