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Curr Genomics. 2014 Dec;15(6):457-63. doi: 10.2174/138920291506150106151847.

Heavy metals and epigenetic alterations in brain tumors.

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Neurosurgical Clinic, Department of Neuroscience, University of Messina, Messina, Italy.
Department of Human Pathology, University of Messina, Messina, Italy.
Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Messina, Messina, Italy.
Department of Experimental Specialized Medical and Surgical and Odontostomatology Sciences, University of Messina, Messina, Italy.


Heavy metals and their derivatives can cause various diseases. Numerous studies have evaluated the possible link between exposure to heavy metals and various cancers. Recent data show a correlation between heavy metals and aberration of genetic and epigenetic patterns. From a literature search we noticed few experimental and epidemiological studies that evaluate a possible correlation between heavy metals and brain tumors. Gliomas arise due to genetic and epigenetic alterations of glial cells. Changes in gene expression result in the alteration of the cellular division process. Epigenetic alterations in brain tumors include the hypermethylation of CpG group, hypomethylation of specific genes, aberrant activation of genes, and changes in the position of various histones. Heavy metals are capable of generating reactive oxygen assumes that key functions in various pathological mechanisms. Alteration of homeostasis of metals could cause the overproduction of reactive oxygen species and induce DNA damage, lipid peroxidation, and alteration of proteins. In this study we summarize the possible correlation between heavy metals, epigenetic alterations and brain tumors. We report, moreover, the review of relevant literature.


Cancer; Environment; Epigenetic; Glioma; Heavy metals; Microglia; Oxidative stress.

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