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Toxicol Sci. 2018 Apr 1;162(2):645-654. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfx292.

Differentially Expressed mRNA Targets of Differentially Expressed miRNAs Predict Changes in the TP53 Axis and Carcinogenesis-Related Pathways in Human Keratinocytes Chronically Exposed to Arsenic.

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Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology.
Department of Medicine.
Department of Urology, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky 40202.
Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra, Spain.


Arsenic is a widely distributed toxic natural element. Chronic arsenic ingestion causes several cancers, especially skin cancer. Arsenic-induced cancer mechanisms are not well defined, but several studies indicate that mutation is not the driving force and that microRNA expression changes play a role. Chronic low arsenite exposure malignantly transforms immortalized human keratinocytes (HaCaT), serving as a model for arsenic-induced skin carcinogenesis. Early changes in miRNA expression in HaCaT cells chronically exposed to arsenite will reveal early steps in transformation. HaCaT cells were maintained with 0/100 nM NaAsO2 for 3 and 7 weeks. Total RNA was purified. miRNA and mRNA expression was assayed using Affymetrix microarrays. Targets of differentially expressed miRNAs were collected from TargetScan 6.2, intersected with differentially expressed mRNAs using Partek Genomic Suite software, and mapped to their pathways using MetaCore software. MDM2, HMGB1 and TP53 mRNA, and protein levels were assayed by RT-qPCR and Western blot. Numerous miRNAs and mRNAs involved in carcinogenesis pathways in other systems were differentially expressed at 3 and 7 weeks. A TP53 regulatory network including MDM2 and HMGB1 was predicted by the miRNA and mRNA networks. Total TP53 and TP53-S15-phosphorylation were induced. However, TP53-K382-hypoacetylation suggested that the induced TP53 is inactive in arsenic exposed cells. Our data provide strong evidence that early changes in miRNAs and target mRNAs may contribute to arsenic-induced carcinogenesis.

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