Journal Article

Chronic inorganic arsenic exposure induces hepatic global and individual gene hypomethylation: implications for arsenic hepatocarcinogenesis

Hua Chen, ShuanFang Li, Jie Liu, Bhalchandra A. Diwan, J. Carl Barrett and Michael P. Waalkes

in Carcinogenesis

Volume 25, issue 9, pages 1779-1786
Published in print September 2004 | ISSN: 0143-3334
Published online September 2004 | e-ISSN: 1460-2180 | DOI:
Chronic inorganic arsenic exposure induces hepatic global and individual gene hypomethylation: implications for arsenic hepatocarcinogenesis

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Inorganic arsenic is a human carcinogen that can target the liver, but its carcinogenic mechanisms are still unknown. Global DNA hypomethylation occurs during arsenic-induced malignant transformation in rodent liver cells. DNA hypomethylation can increase gene expression, particularly when occurring in the promoter region CpG sites, and may be a non-genotoxic mechanism of carcinogenesis. Thus, in the present study liver samples of male mice exposed to 0 (control) or 45 p.p.m. arsenic (as NaAsO2) in the drinking water for 48 weeks were analyzed for gene expression and DNA methylation. Chronic arsenic exposure caused hepatic steatosis, a lesion also linked to consumption of methyl-deficient diets. Microarray analysis of liver samples showed arsenic induced aberrant gene expression including steroid-related genes, cytokines, apoptosis-related genes and cell cycle-related genes. In particular, the expression of the estrogen receptor-α (ER-α), and cyclin D1 genes were markedly increased. RT–PCR and immunohistochemistry confirmed arsenic-induced increases in hepatic ER-α and cyclin D1 transcription and translation products, respectively. Arsenic induced hepatic global DNA hypomethylation, as evidenced by 5-methylcytosine content of DNA and by the methyl acceptance assay. Arsenic also markedly reduced the methylation within the ER-α gene promoter region, as assessed by methylation-specific PCR, and this reduction was statistically significant in 8 of 13 CpG sites within the promoter region. Overall, in controls 28.3% of the ER-α promoter region CpG sites were methylated, but only 2.9% were methylated after chronic arsenic exposure. Thus, long-term exposure of mice to arsenic in the drinking water can induce aberrant gene expression, global DNA hypomethylation, and the hypomethylation of the ER-α gene promoter, all of which could potentially contribute to arsenic hepatocarcinogenesis.

Keywords: ER-α, estrogen receptor-α; SAM, S-adenosyl-methionine

Journal Article.  6665 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Clinical Cytogenetics and Molecular Genetics

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