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J Proteome Res. 2013 Jul 5;12(7):3511-8. doi: 10.1021/pr400375p. Epub 2013 Jun 11.

Hexavalent chromium-induced alteration of proteomic landscape in human skin fibroblast cells.

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Environmental Toxicology Graduate Program, University of California, Riverside, California 92521-0403, USA.


Hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)] generated during industrial processes is carcinogenic. Although much is known about the deleterious effects caused by reactive oxygen species generated during the reduction of Cr(VI) after its absorption by biological systems, the precise mechanisms underlying Cr(VI) cytotoxicity remain poorly defined. Here, we analyzed, at the global proteome scale, the perturbation of protein expression in GM00637 human skin fibroblast cells upon exposure to potassium dichromate (K₂Cr₂O₇). We were able to quantify ∼4600 unique proteins, among which ∼400 exhibited significant alterations in expression levels upon a 24-h treatment with 0.5 μM K₂Cr₂O₇. Pathway analysis revealed the Cr(VI)-induced perturbation of cholesterol biosynthesis, G-protein signaling, inflammatory response, and selenoprotein pathways. In particular, we discovered that the K₂Cr₂O₇ treatment led to pronouncedly elevated expression of a large number of enzymes involved in de novo cholesterol biosynthesis. Real-time PCR analysis revealed the increased mRNA expression of selected genes involved in cholesterol biosynthesis. Consistently, K₂Cr₂O₇ treatment resulted in marked increases in cellular cholesterol level in multiple cell lines. Moreover, the Cr(VI)-induced growth inhibition of cultured human cells could be rescued by a cholesterol-lowering drug, lovastatin. Together, we demonstrated, for the first time, that Cr(VI) may exert its cytotoxic effect, at least partly, through the up-regulation of enzymes involved in de novo cholesterol biosynthesis and the resultant increase of cholesterol level in cells.

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