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1.  Altered Gene Expression by Low-Dose Arsenic Exposure in Humans and Cultured Cardiomyocytes: Assessment by Real-Time PCR Arrays 
Chronic arsenic exposure results in higher risk of skin, lung, and bladder cancer, as well as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects on expression of selected genes in the blood lymphocytes from 159 people exposed chronically to arsenic in their drinking water using a novel RT-PCR TaqMan low-density array (TLDA). We found that expression of tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), which activates both inflammation and NF-κB-dependent survival pathways, was strongly associated with water and urinary arsenic levels. Expression of KCNA5, which encodes a potassium ion channel protein, was positively associated with water and toe nail arsenic levels. Expression of 2 and 11 genes were positively associated with nail and urinary arsenic, respectively. Because arsenic exposure has been reported to be associated with long QT intervals and vascular disease in humans, we also used this TLDA for analysis of gene expression in human cardiomyocytes exposed to arsenic in vitro. Expression of the ion-channel genes CACNA1, KCNH2, KCNQ1 and KCNE1 were down-regulated by 1-μM arsenic. Alteration of some common pathways, including those involved in oxidative stress, inflammatory signaling, and ion-channel function, may underlay the seemingly disparate array of arsenic-associated diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
PMCID: PMC3138013  PMID: 21776218
arsenic; drinking water; low-density array; real-time PCR; cardiomycocytes
2.  Aberrant promoter methylation of multiple genes in sputum from individuals exposed to smoky coal emissions 
Anticancer research  2008;28(4B):2061-2066.
Aberrant methylation in the promoter region of cancer-related genes leads to gene transcriptional inactivation and plays an integral role in lung tumorigenesis. Recent studies demonstrated that promoter methylation was detected not only in lung tumors from patients with lung cancer but also in sputum of smokers without the disease, suggesting the potential for aberrant gene promoter methylation in sputum as a predictive marker for lung cancer. In the present study, we investigated promoter methylation of 4 genes frequently detected in lung tumors, including p16, MGMT, RASSF1A and DAPK genes, in sputum samples obtained from 107 individuals, including 34 never-smoking females and 73 mostly smoking males, who had no evidence of lung cancer but who were exposed to smoky coal emission in Xuan Wei County, China, where lung cancer rate is more than 6 times the Chinese national average rate. Forty nine of the individuals showed evidence of chronic bronchitis while the remaining 58 individuals showed no such a symptom. Promoter methylation of p16, MGMT, RASSF1A and DAPK was detected in 51.4% (55/107), 17.8% (19/107), 29.9% (32/107), and 15.9% (17/107) of the sputum samples from these individuals, respectively. There were no differences in promoter methylation frequencies of any of these genes according to smoking status or gender of the subjects or between individuals with chronic bronchitis and those without evidence of such a symptom. Therefore, individuals exposed to smoky coal emissions in this region harbored in their sputum frequent promoter methylation of these genes that have been previously found in lung tumors and implicated in lung cancer development.
PMCID: PMC2974317  PMID: 18751376
Smoky coal emissions; Gene promoter methylation; Lung cancer
3.  Elevated Human Telomerase Reverse Transcriptase Gene Expression in Blood Cells Associated with Chronic Arsenic Exposure in Inner Mongolia, China 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2008;117(3):354-360.
Arsenic exposure is associated with human cancer. Telomerase-containing human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT) can extend telomeres of chromosomes, delay senescence, and promote cell proliferation leading to tumorigenesis.
The goal of this study was to investigate the effects of As on hTERT mRNA expression in humans and in vitro.
A total of 324 Inner Mongolia residents who have been exposed to As via drinking water participated in this study. Water and toenail samples were collected and analyzed for As. Blood samples were quantified for hTERT mRNA expression using real-time polymerase chain reaction. The hTERT mRNA levels were linked to water and nail As concentrations and skin hyperkeratosis. Human epidermal keratinocytes were treated with arsenite to assess effects on cell viability and hTERT expression in vitro.
hTERT mRNA expression levels were significantly associated with As concentrations of water (p < 0.0001) and nails (p = 0.002) and also associated with severity of skin hyperkeratosis (p < 0.05), adjusting for age, sex, smoking, and pesticide use. Females showed a higher slope than males (females: 0.126, p = 0.0005; males: 0.079, p = 0.017). In addition to water and nail As concentrations, age (p < 0.0001) and pesticide use (p = 0.025) also showed significant associations with hTERT expression. The hTERT expression levels decreased with age. Tobacco smoking did not affect hTERT expression (p = 0.13). hTERT expression was significantly correlated with OGG1 and ERCC1 expression. The in vitro results also showed a dose–response relationship between arsenite concentrations and hTERT expression and reached the peak at 1 μM.
hTERT expression was associated with As exposure in vivo and in vitro. The increased hTERT expression may be a cellular response to genomic insults by As and may also indicate that As may function as a tumor promoter in carcinogenesis in humans.
PMCID: PMC2661903  PMID: 19337508
arsenic; blood; drinking water; gene expression; hTERT; humans; mRNA; nail; telomerase; skin hyperkeratosis
4.  Well Water Arsenic Exposure, Arsenic Induced Skin-Lesions and Self-Reported Morbidity in Inner Mongolia 
Residents of the Bayingnormen region of Inner Mongolia have been exposed to arsenic-contaminated well water for over 20 years, but relatively few studies have investigated health effects in this region. We surveyed one village to document exposure to arsenic and assess the prevalence of arsenic-associated skin lesions and self-reported morbidity. Five-percent (632) of the 12,334 residents surveyed had skin lesions characteristics of arsenic exposure. Skin lesions were strongly associated with well water arsenic and there was an elevated prevalence among residents with water arsenic exposures as low as 5 μg/L-10 μg/L. The presence of skin lesions was also associated with self-reported cardiovascular disease.
PMCID: PMC2672384  PMID: 19440430
Arsenic; drinking water; Inner Mongolia; hyperkeratosis; skin lesions
5.  Increased Mortality Associated with Well-Water Arsenic Exposure in Inner Mongolia, China 
We conducted a retrospective mortality study in an Inner Mongolian village exposed to well water contaminated by arsenic since the 1980s. Deaths occurring between January 1, 1997 and December 1, 2004 were classified according to underlying cause and water samples from household wells were tested for total arsenic. Heart disease mortality was associated with arsenic exposure, and the association strengthened with time exposed to the water source. Cancer mortality and all-cause mortality were associated with well-water arsenic exposure among those exposed 10–20 years. This is the first study to document increased arsenic-associated mortality in the Bayingnormen region of Inner Mongolia.
PMCID: PMC2672378  PMID: 19440436
Arsenic; drinking water; China; Inner Mongolia; mortality; heart disease; cancer
6.  Chronic Arsenic Exposure and Cardiac Repolarization Abnormalities with QT Interval Prolongation in a Population-based Study 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2007;115(5):690-694.
Chronic arsenic exposure is associated with cardiovascular abnormalities. Prolongation of the QT (time between initial deflection of QRS complex to the end of T wave) interval and profound repolarization changes on electrocardiogram (ECG) have been reported in patients with acute promyelocytic leukemia treated with arsenic trioxide. This acquired form of long QT syndrome can result in life-threatening arrhythmias.
The objective of this study was to assess the cardiac effects of arsenic by investigating QT interval alterations in a human population chronically exposed to arsenic.
Residents in Ba Men, Inner Mongolia, have been chronically exposed to arsenic via consumption of water from artesian wells. A total of 313 Ba Men residents with the mean arsenic exposure of 15 years were divided into three arsenic exposure groups: low (≤ 21 μg/L), medium (100–300 μg/L), and high (430–690 μg/L). ECGs were obtained on all study subjects. The normal range for QTc (corrected QT) interval is 0.33–0.44 sec, and QTc ≥ 0.45 sec was considered to be prolonged.
The prevalence rates of QT prolongation and water arsenic concentrations showed a dose-dependent relationship (p = 0.001). The prevalence rates of QTc prolongation were 3.9, 11.1, 20.6% for low, medium, and high arsenic exposure, respectively. QTc prolongation was also associated with sex (p < 0.0001) but not age (p = 0.486) or smoking (p = 0.1018). Females were more susceptible to QT prolongation than males.
We found significant association between chronic arsenic exposure and QT interval prolongation in a human population. QT interval may potentially be useful in the detection of early cardiac arsenic toxicity.
PMCID: PMC1867981  PMID: 17520054
arsenic; cardiac repolarization; cardiovascular effects; drinking water; nail; QT prolongation
7.  Chronic Arsenic Exposure and Oxidative Stress: OGG1 Expression and Arsenic Exposure, Nail Selenium, and Skin Hyperkeratosis in Inner Mongolia 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2006;114(6):835-841.
Arsenic, a human carcinogen, is known to induce oxidative damage to DNA. In this study we investigated oxidative stress and As exposure by determining gene expression of OGG1, which codes for an enzyme, 8-oxoguanine DNA glycosylase, involved in removing 8-oxoguanine in As-exposed individuals. Bayingnormen (Ba Men) residents in Inner Mongolia are chronically exposed to As via drinking water. Water, toenail, and blood samples were collected from 299 Ba Men residents exposed to 0.34–826 μg/L As. RNA was isolated from blood, and mRNA levels of OGG1 were determined using real-time polymerase chain reaction. OGG1 expression levels were linked to As concentrations in drinking water and nails, selenium concentrations in nails, and skin hyperkeratosis. OGG1 expression was strongly associated with water As concentrations (p < 0.0001). Addition of the quadratic term significantly improved the fit compared with the linear model (p = 0.05). The maximal OGG1 response was at the water As concentration of 149 μg/L. OGG1 expression was also significantly associated with toenail As concentrations (p = 0.015) but inversely associated with nail Se concentrations (p = 0.0095). We found no significant differences in the As-induced OGG1 expression due to sex, smoking, or age even though the oldest group showed the strongest OGG1 response (p = 0.0001). OGG1 expression showed a dose-dependent increased risk of skin hyperkeratosis in males (trend analysis, p = 0.02), but the trend was not statistically significant in females. The results from this study provide a linkage between oxidative stress and As exposure in humans. OGG1 expression may be useful as a biomarker for assessing oxidative stress from As exposure.
PMCID: PMC1480502  PMID: 16759981
arsenic; blood; humans; nail; OGG1; oxidative stress; selenium; skin hyperkeratosis
8.  Comparison of DNA adducts from exposure to complex mixtures in various human tissues and experimental systems 
DNA adducts derived from complex mixtures of polycyclic aromatic compounds emitted from tobacco smoke are compared to industrial pollution sources (e.g., coke ovens and aluminum smelters), smoky coal burning, and urban air pollution. Exposures to coke oven emissions and smoky coal, both potent rodent skin tumor initiators and lung carcinogens in humans, result in high levels of DNA adducts compared to tobacco smoke in the in vitro calf thymus DNA model system, in cultured lymphocytes, and in the mouse skin assay. Using tobacco smoke as a model in human studies, we have compared relative DNA adduct levels detected in blood lymphocytes, placental tissue, bronchoalveolar lung lavage cells, sperm, and autopsy tissues of smokers and nonsmokers. Adduct levels in DNA isolated from smokers were highest in human heart and lung tissue with smaller but detectable differences in placental tissue and lung lavage cells. Comparison of the DNA adduct levels resulting from human exposure to different complex mixtures shows that emissions from coke ovens, aluminum smelters, and smoky coal result in higher DNA adduct levels than tobacco smoke exposure. These studies suggest that humans exposed to complex combustion mixtures will have higher DNA adduct levels in target cells (e.g., lung) as compared to nontarget cells (e.g., lymphocytes) and that the adduct levels will be dependent on the genotoxic and DNA adduct-forming potency of the mixture.
PMCID: PMC1567020  PMID: 8319665

Results 1-8 (8)