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Mechanisms of Arsenic-Induced Developmental Toxicity

Bain, Lisa
Clemson University
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Arsenic is an enormous public health problem as it is a contaminant of drinking water in many parts of the world. A number of recent epidemiological studies have correlated arsenic exposure with adverse developmental outcomes such as stillbirths, spontaneous abortions, neonatal mortality, low birth weight, and delays in the use of musculature. Studies in rodents also demonstrate that offspring of pregnant dams exposed to arsenic have increases in preterm death, low birth weight, and changes in locomotor activity.

Using a model fish species termed mummichogs, our laboratory has shown developmental abnormalities in offspring exposed to 230ppb arsenic during gametogenesis, which correlated with an upregulation of genes involved the musculature, such as myosin light chain 2, tropomyosin, and parvalbumin. We have also demonstrated that exposure of C2C12 myocyte cells to 20nM arsenic resulted in a delay in myoblast differentiation that correlated to a reduction in myogenin expression and a reduction in methyltransferase expression.

Thus, we propose to investigate the mechanisms underlying the increase in developmental abnormalities and changes in myogenesis after exposure to arsenic using the C2C12 cell line. Our hypothesis is that inappropriate expression of transcription factors involved in skeletal muscle development, coupled with altered gene methylation, is a mechanism partly responsible for altered myogenesis and the developmental abnormalities in arsenic-exposed offspring. We will test this hypothesis by exposing C2C12 myoblast cells to increasing concentrations of arsenic to investigate the time and dose-dependent changes in differentiation, multinucleation, muscle-specific genes, and myogenic transcription factor expression by real-time PCR and immunoblotting.

To investigate the mechanisms responsible for the lack of differentiation, DNA methylation, methyltransferase activity and expression, and methylation precursors will be examined. Finally, methylation inducers and inhibitors, and transfection of methyltransferase genes will be used to determine whether the myogenic phenotype and myogenic protein expression can be altered.

Our laboratory is well positioned to carry out the proposed studies because we have experience in examining the effects of arsenic on development, and on differential gene and protein expression. We have previously been examining phenotypic and gene expression changes after arsenic exposure in a model fish species, and now wish to further our in vivo findings by using a cell model to examine arsenic's mechanisms of action as it relates to altered development and altered myogenesis.

PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: The ultimate benefit of this work is to assess the mechanisms of how environmentally realistic arsenic exposure impacts development, and help to examine whether the drinking water standard for arsenic is protective of human health.

More information
For additional information, including history, sub-projects, results and publications, if available, visit the Project Information web page at the National Institutes of Health Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tool (RePORTER) database.
Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Environmental Health Sciences
Project number
Sanitation and Quality Standards