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Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2011 Dec;4(12):2101-9. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-11-0343. Epub 2011 Sep 12.

Unfolded protein response signaling and MAP kinase pathways underlie pathogenesis of arsenic-induced cutaneous inflammation.

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Department of Dermatology and Skin Diseases Research Center, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA.


Arsenic exposure through drinking water is a major global public health problem and is associated with an enhanced risk of various cancers including skin cancer. In human skin, arsenic induces precancerous melanosis and keratosis, which may progress to basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma. However, the mechanism by which these pathophysiologic alterations occur remains elusive. In this study, we showed that subchronic arsenic exposure to SKH-1 mice induced unfolded protein response (UPR) signaling regulated by proteins, inositol-requiring enzyme-1 (IRE1), PKR-like endoplasmic reticulum kinase (PERK) and activating transcription factor 6 (ATF6). Arsenic activated all three UPR regulatory proteins in the skin. Arsenic induced IRE1 phosphorylation which resulted in augmented splicing of X-box binding protein 1 (XBP-1) leading to its migration to the nucleus, and also enhanced transcriptional activation of downstream target proteins. Hyperphosphorylation of PERK which induces eukaryotic translation initial factor 2α (eIF2α) in a phosphorylation-dependent manner enhanced translation of ATF4, in addition to augmenting proteolytic activation of ATF6 in arsenic-treated skin. A similar increase in the expression of CHOP was observed. Enhanced XBP-1s, ATF4, and ATF6 regulated downstream chaperones GRP94 and GRP78. In addition, arsenic induced inflammation-related p38/MAPKAPK-2 MAPK signaling and alterations in Th-1/Th-2/Th-17 cytokines/chemokines and their receptors. Antioxidant N-acetyl cysteine blocked arsenic-induced reactive oxygen species, with a concomitant attenuation of UPR and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling and proinflammatory cytokine/chemokine signatures. Our results identify novel pathways involved in the pathogenesis of arsenic-mediated cutaneous inflammation which may also be related to enhanced cancer risk in arsenic exposed cohorts.

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