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1.  Predicting chemically-induced skin reactions. Part II: QSAR models of skin permeability and the relationships between skin permeability and skin sensitization 
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2015;284(2):273-280.
Skin permeability is widely considered to be mechanistically implicated in chemically-induced skin sensitization. Although many chemicals have been identified as skin sensitizers, there have been very few reports analyzing the relationships between molecular structure and skin permeability of sensitizers and non-sensitizers. The goals of this study were to: (i) compile, curate, and integrate the largest publicly available dataset of chemicals studied for their skin permeability; (ii) develop and rigorously validate QSAR models to predict skin permeability; and (iii) explore the complex relationships between skin sensitization and skin permeability. Based on the largest publicly available dataset compiled in this study, we found no overall correlation between skin permeability and skin sensitization. In addition, cross-species correlation coefficient between human and rodent permeability data was found to be as low as R2=0.44. Human skin permeability models based on the random forest method have been developed and validated using OECD-compliant QSAR modeling workflow. Their external accuracy was high (Q2ext = 0.73 for 63% of external compounds inside the applicability domain). The extended analysis using both experimentally-measured and QSAR-imputed data still confirmed the absence of any overall concordance between skin permeability and skin sensitization. This observation suggests that chemical modifications that affect skin permeability should not be presumed a priori to modulate the sensitization potential of chemicals. The models reported herein as well as those developed in the companion paper on skin sensitization suggest that it may be possible to rationally design compounds with the desired high skin permeability but low sensitization potential.
PMCID: PMC4408226  PMID: 25560673
Skin sensitization; skin permeability; QSAR; virtual screening; skin toxicants
2.  Regulation of ozone-induced lung inflammation and injury by the β-galactoside-binding lectin galectin-3 
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2015;284(2):236-245.
Macrophages play a dual role in ozone toxicity, contributing to both pro- and anti-inflammatory processes. Galectin-3 (Gal-3) is a lectin known to regulate macrophage activity. Herein, we analyzed the role of Gal-3 in the response of lung macrophages to ozone. Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) and lung tissue were collected 24–72 h after exposure (3 h) of WT and Gal-3−/− mice to air or 0.8 ppm ozone. In WT mice, ozone inhalation resulted in increased numbers of proinflammatory (Gal-3+, iNOS+) and anti-inflammatory (MR-1+) macrophages in the lungs. While accumulation of iNOS+ macrophages was attenuated in Gal-3−/− mice, increased numbers of enlarged MR-1+ macrophages were noted. This correlated with increased numbers of macrophages in BAL. Flow cytometric analysis showed that these cells were CD11b+ and consisted mainly (>97%) mature (F4/80+CD11c+) proinflammatory (Ly6G−Ly6Chi) and anti-inflammatory (Ly6G−Ly6Clo) macrophages. Increases in both macrophage subpopulations were observed following ozone inhalation. Loss of Gal-3 resulted in a decrease in Ly6Chi macrophages, with no effect on Ly6Clo macrophages. CD11b+Ly6G+Ly6C+ granulocytic (G) and monocytic (M) myeloid derived suppressor cells (MDSC) were also identified in the lung after ozone. In Gal-3−/− mice, the response of G-MDSC to ozone was attenuated, while the response of M-MDSC was heightened. Changes in inflammatory cell populations in the lung of ozone treated Gal-3−/− mice were correlated with reduced tissue injury as measured by cytochrome b5 expression. These data demonstrate that Gal-3 plays a role in promoting proinflammatory macrophage accumulation and toxicity in the lung following ozone exposure.
PMCID: PMC4408237  PMID: 25724551
Ozone; gal-3; macrophage phenotype; flow cytometry; MDSC
3.  Developmental exposure to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin alters DNA methyltransferase (dnmt) expression in zebrafish (Danio rerio) 
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2015;284(2):142-151.
DNA methylation is one of the most important epigenetic modifications involved in the regulation of gene expression. The DNA methylation reaction is catalyzed by DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs). Recent studies have demonstrated that toxicants can affect normal development by altering DNA methylation patterns, but the mechanisms of action are poorly understood. Hence, we tested the hypothesis that developmental exposure to TCDD affects dnmt gene expression patterns. Zebrafish embryos were exposed to 5 nM TCDD for one hour from 4 to 5 hours post-fertilization (hpf) and sampled at 12, 24, 48, 72 and 96 hpf to determine dnmt gene expression and DNA methylation patterns. We performed a detailed analysis of zebrafish dnmt gene expression during development and in adult tissues. Our results demonstrate that dnmt3b genes are highly expressed in early stages of development, and dnmt3a genes are more abundant in later stages. TCDD exposure upregulated dnmt1 and dnmt3b2 expression, whereas dnmt3a1, 3b1, and 3b4 are downregulated following exposure. We did not observe any TCDD-induced differences in global methylation or hydroxymethylation levels, but promoter methylation of aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) target genes was altered. In TCDD-exposed embryos, AHR repressor a (ahrra) and c-fos promoters were differentially methylated. To characterize the TCDD effects on DNMTs, we cloned the dnmt promoters with xenobiotic response elements and conducted AHR transactivation assays using a luciferase reporter system. Our results suggest that ahr2 can regulate dnmt3a1, dnmt3a2 and dnmt3b2 expression. Overall, we demonstrate that developmental exposure to TCDD alters dnmt expression and DNA methylation patterns.
PMCID: PMC4408251  PMID: 25732252
TCDD; zebrafish development; dnmt; aryl hydrocarbon receptor; dioxin; DNA methylation
4.  Developmental Bisphenol A (BPA) Exposure Leads to Sex-specific Modification of Hepatic Gene Expression and Epigenome at Birth that May Exacerbate High-fat Diet-induced Hepatic Steatosis 
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2015;284(2):101-112.
Developmental bisphenol A (BPA) exposure increases adulthood hepatic steatosis with reduced mitochondrial function. To investigate potential epigenetic mechanisms behind developmental BPA-induced hepatic steatosis, pregnant Sprague-Dawley rats were dosed with vehicle (oil) or BPA (100 μg/kg/day) from gestational day 6 until postnatal day (PND) 21. After weaning, offspring were either challenged with a high-fat (HF; 45% fat) or remained on a control (C) diet until PND110. From PND60 to 90, both BPA and HF diet increased the fat/lean ratio in males only, and the combination of BPA and HF diet appeared to cause the highest ratio. On PND110, Oil-HF, BPA-C, and BPA-HF males had higher hepatic lipid accumulation than Oil-C, with microvesicular steatosis being marked in the BPA-HF group. Furthermore, on PND1, BPA increased and modified hepatic triglycerides (TG) and free fatty acid (FFA) composition in males only. In PND1 males, BPA increased hepatic expression of FFA uptake gene Fat/Cd36, and decreased the expression of TG synthesis- and β-oxidation-related genes (Dgat, Agpat6, Cebpα, Cebpβ, Pck1, Acox1, Cpt1a, Cybb). BPA altered DNA methylation, histone marks (H3Ac, H4Ac, H3Me2K4, H3Me3K36), and decreased the binding of several transcription factors (Pol II, C/EBPβ, SREBP1) within the male Cpt1a gene, the key β-oxidation enzyme. In PND1 females, BPA only increased the expression of genes involved in FFA uptake and TG synthesis (Lpl, Fasn, and Dgat). These data suggest that developmental BPA exposure alters and reprograms hepatic β-oxidation capacity in males, potentially thorough the epigenetic regulation of genes, and further alters the response to a HF diet.
PMCID: PMC4520316  PMID: 25748669
Bisphenol A (BPA); adiposity; endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC); NAFLD; methylation; histones
5.  A rat model of nerve agent exposure applicable to the pediatric population: The anticonvulsant efficacies of atropine and GluK1 antagonists 
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2015;284(2):204-216.
Inhibition of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) after nerve agent exposure induces status epilepticus (SE), which causes brain damage or death. The development of countermeasures appropriate for the pediatric population requires testing of anticonvulsant treatments in immature animals. In the present study, exposure of 21-day-old (P21) rats to different doses of soman, followed by probit analysis, produced an LD50 of 62 μg/kg. The onset of behaviorally-observed SE was accompanied by a dramatic decrease in brain AChE activity; rats who did not develop SE had significantly less reduction of AChE activity in the basolateral amygdala than rats who developed SE. Atropine sulfate (ATS) at 2 mg/kg, administered 20 min after soman exposure (1.2XLD50), terminated seizures. ATS at 0.5 mg/kg, given along with an oxime within 1 min after exposure, allowed testing of anticonvulsants at delayed time-points. The AMPA/GluK1 receptor antagonist LY293558, or the specific GluK1 antagonist UBP302, administered 1 h post-exposure, terminated SE. There were no degenerating neurons in soman-exposed P21 rats, but both the amygdala and the hippocampus were smaller than in control rats at 30 and 90 days post-exposure; this pathology was not present in rats treated with LY293558. Behavioral deficits present at 30 days post-exposure, were also prevented by LY293558 treatment. Thus, in immature animals, a single injection of atropine is sufficient to halt nerve agent-induced seizures, if administered timely. Testing anticonvulsants at delayed time-points requires early administration of ATS at a low dose, sufficient to counteract only peripheral toxicity. LY293558 administered 1 h post-exposure, prevents brain pathology and behavioral deficits.
PMCID: PMC4545593  PMID: 25689173
immature rats; soman; seizures; acetylcholinesterase; atropine sulfate; GluK1 antagonists
6.  Potential of Extracellular MicroRNAs as Biomarkers of Acetaminophen Toxicity in Children 
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2015;284(2):180-187.
Developing biomarkers for detecting acetaminophen (APAP) toxicity has been widely investigated. Recent studies of adults with APAP-induced liver injury have reported human serum microRNA-122 (miR-122) as a novel biomarker of APAP-induced liver injury. The goal of this study was to examine extracellular microRNAs (miRNAs) as potential biomarkers for APAP liver injury in children. Global levels of serum and urine miRNAs were examined in three pediatric subgroups: 1) healthy children (n=10), 2) hospitalized children receiving therapeutic doses of APAP (n=10) and 3) children hospitalized for APAP overdose (n=8). Out of 147 miRNAs detected in the APAP overdose group, eight showed significantly increased median levels in serum (miR-122, −375, −423-5p, −30d-5p, −125b-5p, −4732-5p, −204-5p, and −574-3p), compared to the other groups. Analysis of urine samples from the same patients had significantly increased median levels of four miRNAs (miR-375, −940, −9-3p and −302a) compared to the other groups. Importantly, correlation of peak serum APAP protein adduct levels (an indicator of the oxidation of APAP to the reactive metabolite N-acetylpara-quinone imine) with peak miRNA levels showed that the highest correlation was observed for serum miR-122 (R=0.94; p<0.01) followed by miR-375 (R=0.70; p=0.05). Conclusion: Our findings demonstrate that miRNAs are increased in children with APAP toxicity and correlate with APAP protein adducts, suggesting a potential role as biomarkers of APAP toxicity.
PMCID: PMC4558622  PMID: 25708609
Acetaminophen; Pediatric; Urine; microRNA; DILI
7.  Combination effects of AHR agonists and Wnt/β-catenin modulators in zebrafish embryos: implications for physiological and toxicological AHR functions 
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2015;284(2):163-179.
Wnt/β-catenin signaling regulates essential biological functions and acts in developmental toxicity of some chemicals. The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) is well-known to mediate developmental toxicity of persistent dioxin-like compounds (DLCs). Recent studies indicate a crosstalk between β-catenin and the AHR in some tissues. However the nature of this crosstalk in embryos is poorly known. We observed that zebrafish embryos exposed to the β-catenin inhibitor XAV939 display effects phenocopying those of the dioxin-like 3,3′,4,4′,5-pentachlorobiphenyl (PCB126). This led us to investigate AHR interaction with β-catenin during development and ask whether developmental toxicity of DLCs involves antagonism of β-catenin signaling. We examined phenotypes and transcriptional responses in zebrafish embryos exposed to XAV939 or to a β-catenin activator, 1-azakenpaullone, alone or with AHR agonists, either PCB126 or 6-formylindolo[3,2-b]carbazole (FICZ). Alone 1-azakenpaullone and XAV939 both were embryo-toxic, and we found that in presence of FICZ, the toxicity of 1-azakenpaullone decreased while the toxicity of XAV939 increased. This rescue of 1-azakenpaullone effects occurred in the time window of Ahr2-mediated toxicity and was reversed by morpholine-oligonucleotide knockdown of Ahr2. Regarding PCB126, addition of either 1-azakenpaullone or XAV939 led to lower mortality than with PCB126 alone but surviving embryos showed severe edemas. 1-Azakenpaullone induced transcription of β-catenin-associated genes, while PCB126 and FICZ blocked this induction. The data indicate a stage-dependent antagonism of β-catenin by Ahr2 in zebrafish embryos. We propose that the AHR has a physiological role in regulating β-catenin during development, and that this is one point of intersection linking toxicological and physiological AHR-governed processes.
PMCID: PMC4747639  PMID: 25711857
8.  Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate inhibits antral follicle growth, induces atresia, and inhibits steroid hormone production in cultured mouse antral follicles 
Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) is a ubiquitous environmental toxicant found in consumer products that causes ovarian toxicity. Antral follicles are the functional ovarian units and must undergo growth, survival from atresia, and proper regulation of steroidogenesis to ovulate and produce hormones. Previous studies have determined that DEHP inhibits antral follicle growth and decreases estradiol levels in vitro; however, the mechanism by which DEHP elicits these effects is unknown. The present study tested the hypothesis that DEHP directly alters regulators of the cell cycle, apoptosis, and steroidogenesis to inhibit antral follicle functionality. Antral follicles from adult CD-1 mice were cultured with vehicle control or DEHP (1-100μg/ml) for 24-96 hr to establish the temporal effects of DEHP on the follicle. Following 24-96 hr of culture, antral follicles were subjected to gene expression analysis, and media were subjected to measurements of hormone levels. DEHP increased the mRNA levels of cyclin D2, cyclin dependent kinase 4, cyclin E1, cyclin A2, and cyclin B1 and decreased the levels of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor 1A prior to growth inhibition. Additionally, DEHP increased the mRNA levels of BCL2-associated agonist of cell death, BCL2-associated X protein, BCL2-related ovarian killer protein, B-cell leukemia/lymphoma 2, and Bcl2-like 10, leading to an increase in atresia. Further, DEHP decreased the levels of progesterone, androstenedione, and testosterone prior to the decrease in estradiol levels, with decreased mRNA levels of side-chain cleavage, 17α-hydorxylase-17,20-desmolase, 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, and aromatase. Collectively, DEHP directly alters antral follicle functionality by inhibiting growth, inducing atresia, and inhibiting steroidogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4374011  PMID: 25701202
di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate; ovary; antral follicle; atresia; steroidogenesis
9.  Blackberry extract inhibits UVB-induced oxidative damage and inflammation through MAP kinases and NF-κB signalling pathways in SKH-1 mice skin 
Extensive exposure of solar ultraviolet-B (UVB) radiation to skin induces oxidative stress and inflammation that play a crucial role in the induction of skin cancer. Photochemoprevention with natural products represents a simple but very effective strategy for the management of cutaneous neoplasia. In this study, we investigated whether blackberry extract (BBE) reduces chronic inflammatory responses induced by UVB irradiation in SKH-1 hairless mice skin. Mice were exposed to UVB radiation (100 mJ/cm2) on alternate days for 10 weeks, and BBE (10% and 20%) was applied topically a day before UVB exposure. Our results show that BBE suppressed UVB-induced hyperplasia and reduced infiltration of inflammatory cells in the SKH-1 hairless mice skin. BBE treatment reduced glutathione (GSH) depletion, lipid peroxidation (LPO), and myeloperoxidase (MPO) in mouse skin by chronic UVB exposure. BBE significantly decreased the level of pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-6 and TNF-α in UVB-exposed skin. Likewise, UVB-induced inflammatory responses were diminished by BBE as observed by a remarkable reduction in the levels of phosphorylated MAP Kinases, Erk1/2, p38, JNK1/2 and MKK4. Furthermore, BBE also reduced inflammatory mediators such as cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) levels in UVB-exposed skin. Treatment with BBE inhibited UVB-induced nuclear translocation of NF-κB and degradation of IκBα in mouse skin. Immunohistochemistry analysis revealed that topical application of BBE inhibited the expression of 8-oxo-7, 8-dihydro-2'-deoxyguanosine (8-oxodG), cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers (CPD), proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), and cyclin D1 in UVB-exposed skin. Collectively, these data indicates that BBE protects from UVB-induced oxidative damage and inflammation by modulating MAP kinase and NF-κB signaling pathways.
PMCID: PMC4374016  PMID: 25680589
Blackberry extract; Ultraviolet radiation; Inflammation; COX-2; NF-κB
10.  Permanent Uncoupling of Male-specific CYP2C11 Transcription / Translation by Perinatal Glutamate 
Perinatal exposure of rats and mice to the typically reported 4mg/g bd wt dose of monosodium glutamate (MSG) results in a complete block in GH secretion as well as obesity, growth retardation and a profound suppression of several cytochrome P450s, including CYP2C11, the predominant male-specific isoform - all irreversible effects. In contrast, we have found that a lower dose of the food additive, 2mg/g bd wt on alternate days for the first 9 days of life results in a transient neonatal depletion of plasma GH, a subsequent permanent overexpression of CYP2C11 as well as subnormal (mini) GH pulse amplitudes in an otherwise normal adult masculine episodic GH profile. The overexpressed CYP2C11 was characterized by a 250% increase in mRNA, but only a 40 to 50% increase in CYP2C11 protein and its catalytic activity. Using freshly isolated hepatocytes as well as primary cultures exposed to the masculine-like episodic GH profile, we observed normal induction, activation, nuclear translocation and binding to the CYP2C11 promoter of the GH-dependent signal transducers required for CYP2C11 transcription. The disproportionately lower expression levels of CYP2C11 protein were associated with dramatically high expression levels of an aberrant, presumably nontranslated CYP2C11 mRNA, a 200% increase in CYP2C11 ubiquitination and a 70–80% decline in miRNAs associated, at normal levels, with a suppression of CYP2C expression. Whereas the GH-responsiveness of CYP2C7 and CYP2C6 as well as albumin was normal in the MSG-derived hepatocytes, the abnormal expression of CYP2C11 was permanent and irreversible.
PMCID: PMC4374021  PMID: 25697375
CYP2C11; growth hormone; MSG; sexual dimorphism; SOCS2; STAT5b; GHR
11.  Environmental contaminants activate human and polar bear (Ursus maritimus) pregnane X receptors (PXR, NR1I2) differently 
Many persistent organic pollutants (POPs) accumulate readily in polar bears because of their position as apex predators in Arctic food webs. The pregnane X receptor (PXR, formally NR1I2, here proposed to be named promiscuous xenobiotic receptor) is a xenobiotic sensor that is directly involved in metabolizing pathways of a wide range of environmental contaminants.
In the present study, we comparably assess the ability of 51 selected pharmaceuticals, pesticides and emerging contaminants to activate PXRs from polar bears and humans using an in vitro luciferase reporter gene assay.
We found that polar bear PXR is activated by a wide range of our test compounds (68%) but has a slightly more narrow ligand specificity than human PXR that was activated by 86% of the 51 test compounds. The majority of the agonists identified (70%) produces a stronger induction of the reporter gene via human PXR than via polar bear PXR, however with some notable and environmentally relevant exceptions.
Due to the observed differences in activation of polar bear and human PXRs, exposure of each species to environmental agents is likely to induce biotransformation differently in the two species. Bioinformatics analyses and structural modelling studies suggests that amino acids that are not part of the ligand-binding domain and do not interact with the ligand can modulate receptor activation.
PMCID: PMC4387200  PMID: 25680588
In vitro ligand activation; pregnane X receptor; polar bear; human; environmental pollutants
12.  Motoneuron axon pathfinding errors in zebrafish: Differential effects related to concentration and timing of nicotine exposure 
Nicotine exposure during embryonic stages of development can affect many neurodevelopmental processes. In the developing zebrafish, exposure to nicotine was reported to cause axonal pathfinding errors in the later born secondary motoneurons (SMN). These alterations in SMN axon morphology coincided with muscle degeneration at high nicotine concentrations (15–30µM). Previous work showed that the paralytic mutant zebrafish known as sofa potato, exhibited nicotine-induced effects onto SMN axons at these high concentrations but in the absence of any muscle deficits, indicating that pathfinding errors could occur independent of muscle effects.
In this study, we used varying concentrations of nicotine at different developmental windows of exposure to specifically isolate its effects onto subpopulations of motoneuron axons. We found that nicotine exposure can affect SMN axon morphology in a dose-dependent manner. At low concentrations of nicotine, SMN axons exhibited pathfinding errors, in the absence of any nicotine-induced muscle abnormalities. Moreover, the nicotine exposure paradigms used affected the 3 subpopulations of SMN axons differently, but the dorsal projecting SMN axons were primarily affected. We then identified morphologically distinct pathfinding errors that best described the nicotine-induced effects on dorsal projecting SMN axons. To test whether SMN pathfinding was potentially influenced by alterations in the early born primary motoneuron (PMN), we performed dual labeling studies, where both PMN and SMN axons were simultaneously labeled with antibodies. We show that only a subset of the SMN axon pathfinding errors coincided with abnormal PMN axonal targeting in nicotine-exposed zebrafish. We conclude that nicotine exposure can exert differential effects depending on the levels of nicotine and developmental exposure window.
PMCID: PMC4567840  PMID: 25668718
axonal pathfinding; muscle degeneration; embryonic spinal cord; dual labeling
13.  Cytochrome P450 20A1 in zebrafish: Cloning, regulation and potential involvement in hyperactivity disorders 
Cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes for which there is no functional information are considered “orphan” CYPs. Previous studies showed that CYP20A1, an orphan, is expressed in human hippocampus and substantia nigra, and in zebrafish (Danio rerio) CYP20A1 maternal transcript occurs in eggs, suggesting involvement in brain and in early development. Moreover, hyperactivity is reported in humans with chromosome 2 microdeletions including CYP20A1. We examined CYP20A1 in zebrafish, including impacts of chemical exposure on expression. Zebrafish CYP20A1 cDNA was cloned, sequenced, and aligned with cloned human CYP20A1 and predicted vertebrate orthologs. CYP20A1s share a highly conserved N-terminal region and unusual sequences in the I-helix and the heme-binding CYP signature motifs. CYP20A1 mRNA expression was observed in adult zebrafish organs including liver, heart, gonads, spleen and brain, as well as eye and optic nerve. Putative binding sites in proximal promoter regions of CYP20A1s, and response of zebrafish CYP20A1 to selected nuclear and xenobiotic receptor agonists, point to up-regulation by agents involved in steroid hormone response, cholesterol and lipid metabolism. There also was a dose-dependent reduction of CYP20A1 expression in embryos exposed to environmentally relevant levels of methylmercury. Morpholino knockdown of CYP20A1 in developing zebrafish resulted in behavioral effects, including hyperactivity and a slowing of the optomotor response in larvae. The results suggest that altered expression of CYP20A1 might be part of a mechanism linking methylmercury exposure to neurobehavioral deficits. The expanded information on CYP20A1 brings us closer to “deorphanization”, that is, identifying CYP20A1 functions and its roles in health and disease.
PMCID: PMC4807407  PMID: 26853319
Cytochrome P450 20A1; behavioral disorders; methylmercury; zebrafish
14.  Prediction of binding affinity and efficacy of thyroid hormone receptor ligands using QSAR and structure based modeling methods 
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2014;280(1):177-189.
The thyroid hormone receptor (THR) is an important member of the nuclear receptor family that can be activated by endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC). Quantitative Structure-Activity Relationship (QSAR) models have been developed to facilitate the prioritization of THR-mediated EDC for the experimental validation. The largest database of binding affinities available at the time of the study for ligand binding domain (LBD) of THRβ was assembled to generate both continuous and classification QSAR models with an external accuracy of R2=0.55 and CCR=0.76, respectively. In addition, for the first time a QSAR model was developed to predict binding affinities of antagonists inhibiting the interaction of coactivators with the AF-2 domain of THRβ (R2=0.70). Furthermore, molecular docking studies were performed for a set of THRβ ligands (57 agonists and 15 antagonists of LBD, 210 antagonists of the AF-2 domain, supplemented by putative decoys/non-binders) using several THRβ structures retrieved from the Protein Data Bank. We found that two agonist-bound THRβ conformations could effectively discriminate their corresponding ligands from presumed non-binders. Moreover, one of the agonist conformations could discriminate agonists from antagonists. Finally, we have conducted virtual screening of a chemical library compiled by the EPA as part of the Tox21 program to identify potential THRβ-mediated EDCs using both QSAR models and docking. We concluded that the library is unlikely to have any EDC that would bind to the THRβ. Models developed in this study can be employed either to identify environmental chemicals interacting with the THR or, conversely, to eliminate the THR-mediated mechanism of action for chemicals of concern.
PMCID: PMC4814443  PMID: 25058446
Endocrine disrupting chemicals; Thyroid hormone receptor; Quantitative structure–activity relationships modeling; Docking; Virtual screening
15.  Tunicamycin-induced Unfolded Protein Response in the Developing Mouse Brain 
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2015;283(3):157-167.
Accumulation of unfolded or misfolded proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) causes ER stress, resulting in the activation of the unfolded protein response (UPR). ER stress and UPR are associated with many neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders. The developing brain is particularly susceptible to environmental insults which may cause ER stress. We evaluated the UPR in the brain of postnatal mice. Tunicamycin, a commonly used ER stress inducer, was administered subcutaneously to mice of postnatal day (PD) 4, 12 and 25. Tunicamycin caused UPR in the cerebral cortex, hippocampus and cerebellum of mice of PD4 and PD12, which was evident by the upregulation of ATF6, XBP1s, p-eIF2α, GRP78, GRP94 and MANF, but failed to induce UPR in the brain of PD25 mice. Tunicamycin-induced UPR in the liver was observed at all stages. In PD4 mice, tunicamycin-induced caspase-3 activation was observed in layer II of the parietal and optical cortex, CA1-CA3 and the subiculum of the hippocampus, the cerebellar external germinal layer and the superior/inferior colliculus. Tunicamycin-induced caspase-3 activation was also shown on PD12 but to a much lesser degree and mainly located in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus, deep cerebellar nuclei and pons. Tunicamycin did not activate caspase-3 in the brain of PD25 mice and the liver of all stages. Similarly, immature cerebellar neurons were sensitive to tunicamycin-induced cell death in culture, but became resistant as they matured in vitro. These results suggest that the UPR is developmentally regulated and the immature brain is more susceptible to ER stress.
PMCID: PMC4361256  PMID: 25620058
Apoptosis; development; endoplasmic reticulum stress; protein degradation
16.  Bile Acid-Induced Necrosis in Primary Human Hepatocytes and in Patients with Obstructive Cholestasis 
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2015;283(3):168-177.
Accumulation of bile acids is a major mediator of cholestatic liver injury. Recent studies indicate bile acid composition between humans and rodents is dramatically different, as humans have a higher percent of glycine conjugated bile acids and increased chenodeoxycholate content, which increases the hydrophobicity index of bile acids. This increase may lead to direct toxicity that kills hepatocytes, and promotes inflammation. To address this issue, this study assessed how pathophysiological concentrations of bile acids measured in cholestatic patients affected primary human hepatocytes. Individual bile acid levels were determined in serum and bile by UPLC/QTOFMS in patients with extrahepatic cholestasis with, or without, concurrent increases in serum transaminases. Bile acid levels increased in serum of patients with liver injury, while biliary levels decreased, implicating infarction of the biliary tracts. To assess bile acid-induced toxicity in man, primary human hepatocytes were treated with relevant concentrations, derived from patient data, of the model bile acid glycochenodeoxycholic acid (GCDC). Treatment with GCDC resulted in necrosis with no increase in apoptotic parameters. This was recapitulated by treatment with biliary bile acid concentrations, but not serum concentrations. Marked elevations in serum full-length cytokeratin-18, high mobility group box1 protein (HMGB1), and acetylated HMGB1 confirmed inflammatory necrosis in injured patients; only modest elevations in caspase-cleaved cytokeratin-18 were observed. These data suggest human hepatocytes are more resistant to human-relevant bile acids than rodent hepatocytes, and die through necrosis when exposed to bile acids. These mechanisms of cholestasis in humans are fundamentally different to mechanisms observed in rodent models.
PMCID: PMC4361327  PMID: 25636263
bile acids; obstructive cholestasis; primary human hepatocytes; biomarkers; inflammation; HMGB1; apoptosis
17.  Arsenic responsive microRNAs in vivo and their potential involvement in arsenic-induced oxidative stress 
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2015;283(3):198-209.
Arsenic exposure is postulated to modify microRNA (miRNA) expression, leading to changes of gene expression and toxicities, but studies relating the responses of miRNAs to arsenic exposure are lacking, especially with respect to in vivo studies. We utilized high-throughput sequencing technology and generated miRNA expression profiles of liver tissues from Sprague Dawley (SD) rats exposed to various concentrations of sodium arsenite (0, 0.1, 1, 10 and 100 mg/L) for 60 days. Unsupervised hierarchical clustering analysis of the miRNA expression profiles clustered the SD rats into different groups based on the arsenic exposure status, indicating a highly significant association between arsenic exposure and cluster membership (P-value of 0.0012). Multiple miRNA expressions were altered by arsenic in an exposure concentration-dependent manner. Among the identified arsenic-responsive miRNAs, several are predicted to target Nfe2l2-regulated antioxidant genes, including glutamate-cysteine ligase (GCL) catalytic subunit (GCLC) and modifier subunit (GCLM) which are involved in glutathione (GSH) synthesis. Exposure to low concentrations of arsenic increased mRNA expression for Gclc and Gclm, while high concentrations significantly reduced their expression, which were correlated to changes in hepatic GCL activity and GSH level. Moreover, our data suggested that other mechanisms, e.g. miRNAs, rather than Nfe2l2-signaling pathway, could be involved in the regulation of mRNA expression of Gclc and Gclm post arsenic exposure in vivo. Together, our findings show that arsenic exposure disrupts the genome-wide expression of miRNAs in vivo, which could lead to the biological consequence, such as an altered balance of antioxidant defense and oxidative stress.
PMCID: PMC4361368  PMID: 25625412
Arsenic; High-throughput sequencing; MicroRNA (miRNA); Glutamate-cysteine ligase; Glutathione; Oxidative Stress
18.  Developmental Exposure To 2,3,7,8 Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-Dioxin Attenuates Later-Life Notch1-Mediated T Cell Development and Leukemogenesis 
Over half of T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) patients have activating mutations in the Notch gene. Moreover, the contaminant 2,3,7,8 Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) is a known carcinogen that mediates its toxicity through the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR), and crosstalk between activated AHR and Notch signaling pathways has previously been observed. Given the importance of Notch signaling in thymocyte development and T-ALL disease progression, we hypothesized that the activated AHR potentiates disease initiation and progression in an in vivo model of Notch1-induced thymoma. This hypothesis was tested utilizing adult and developmental exposure paradigms to TCDD in mice expressing a constitutively active Notch1 transgene (NotchICN-TG). Following exposure of adult NotchICN-TG mice to a single high dose of TCDD, we observed a significant increase in the efficiency of CD8 thymocyte generation. We next exposed pregnant mice to 3μg/kg of TCDD throughout gestation and lactation to elucidate effects of developmental AHR activation on later-life T cell development and T-ALL-like thymoma susceptibility induced by Notch1. We found that the vehicle-exposed NotchICN-TG offspring have a peripheral T-cell pool heavily biased toward the CD4 lineage, while TCDD-exposed NotchICN-TG offspring were biased toward the CD8 lineage. Furthermore, while the vehicle-exposed NotchICN-TG mice showed increased splenomegaly and B to T cell ratios indicative of disease, mice developmentally exposed to TCDD were largely protected from disease. These studies support a model where developmental AHR activation attenuates later-life Notch1-dependent impacts on thymocyte development and disease progression.
PMCID: PMC4331100  PMID: 25585350
2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin; Developmental immunotoxicology; Leukemogenesis; Gene-environment interaction; Notch1; Aryl hydrocarbon receptor
19.  Inhaled ozone (O3)-induces changes in serum metabolomic and liver transcriptomic profiles in rats☆ 
Air pollution has been linked to increased incidence of diabetes. Recently, we showed that ozone (O3) induces glucose intolerance, and increases serum leptin and epinephrine in Brown Norway rats. In this study, we hypothesized that O3 exposure will cause systemic changes in metabolic homeostasis and that serum metabolomic and liver transcriptomic profiling will provide mechanistic insights. In the first experiment, male Wistar Kyoto (WKY) rats were exposed to filtered air (FA) or O3 at 0.25, 0.50, or 1.0 ppm, 6 h/day for two days to establish concentration-related effects on glucose tolerance and lung injury. In a second experiment, rats were exposed to FA or 1.0 ppm O3, 6 h/day for either one or two consecutive days, and systemic metabolic responses were determined immediately after or 18 h post-exposure. O3 increased serum glucose and leptin on day 1. Glucose intolerance persisted through two days of exposure but reversed 18 h-post second exposure. O3 increased circulating metabolites of glycolysis, long-chain free fatty acids, branched-chain amino acids and cholesterol, while 1,5-anhydroglucitol, bile acids and metabolites of TCA cycle were decreased, indicating impaired glycemic control, proteolysis and lipolysis. Liver gene expression increased for markers of glycolysis, TCA cycle and gluconeogenesis, and decreased for markers of steroid and fat biosynthesis. Genes involved in apoptosis and mitochondrial function were also impacted by O3. In conclusion, short-term O3 exposure induces global metabolic derangement involving glucose, lipid, and amino acid metabolism, typical of a stress–response. It remains to be examined if these alterations contribute to insulin resistance upon chronic exposure.
PMCID: PMC4765366  PMID: 25838073
Air pollution; Ozone; Metabolic syndrome; Serum metabolomic; Stress response
20.  Toxicological Responses of Environmental Mixtures: Environmental Metals Mixtures Display Synergistic Induction of Metal-Responsive and Oxidative Stress Genes in Placental Cells 
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2015;289(3):534-541.
Exposure to elevated levels of the toxic metals inorganic arsenic (iAs) and cadmium (Cd) represents a major global health problem. These metals often occur as mixtures in the environment, creating the potential for interactive or synergistic biological effects different from those observed in single exposure conditions. In the present study, environmental mixtures collected from two waste sites in China and comparable mixtures prepared in the laboratory were tested for toxicogenomic response in placental JEG-3 cells. These cells serve as a model for evaluating cellular responses to exposures during pregnancy. One of the mixtures was predominated by iAs and one by Cd. Six gene biomarkers were measured in order to evaluate the effects from the metals mixtures using dose and time-course experiments including: heme oxygenase 1 (HO-1) and metallothionein isoforms (MT1A, MT1F and MT1G) previously shown to be preferentially induced by exposure to either iAs or Cd, and metal transporter genes aquaporin-9 (AQP9) and ATPase, Cu2+ transporting, beta polypeptide (ATP7B). There was a significant increase in the mRNA expression levels of ATP7B, HO-1, MT1A, MT1F, and MT1G in mixture-treated cells compared to the iAs or Cd only-treated cells. Notably, the genomic responses were observed at concentrations significantly lower than levels found at the environmental collection sites. These data demonstrate that metal mixtures increase the expression of gene biomarkers in placental JEG-3 cells in a synergistic manner. Taken together, the data suggest that toxic metals that co-occur may induce detrimental health effects that are currently underestimated when analyzed as single metals.
PMCID: PMC4763604  PMID: 26472158
Toxicogenomics; biomarkers; real-world mixtures; gene expression; synergism; mRNA
21.  Pyrethroid pesticide-induced alterations in dopamine transporter function 
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2005;211(3):188-197.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease affecting the nigrostriatal dopaminergic pathway. Several epidemiological studies have demonstrated an association between pesticide exposure and the incidence of PD. Studies from our laboratory and others have demonstrated that certain pesticides increase levels of the dopamine transporter (DAT), an integral component of dopaminergic neurotransmission and a gateway for dopaminergic neurotoxins. Here, we report that repeated exposure (3 injections over 2 weeks) of mice to two commonly used pyrethroid pesticides, deltamethrin (3 mg/kg) and permethrin (0.8 mg/kg), increases DAT-mediated dopamine uptake by 31 and 28%, respectively. Using cells stably expressing DAT, we determined that exposure (10 min) to deltamethrin and permethrin (1 nM–100 μM) had no effect on DAT-mediated dopamine uptake. Extending exposures to both pesticides for 30 min (10 μM) or 24 h (1, 5, and 10 μM) resulted in significant decrease in dopamine uptake. This reduction was not the result of competitive inhibition, loss of DAT protein, or cytotoxicity. However, there was an increase in DNA fragmentation, an index of apoptosis, in cells exhibiting reduced uptake at 30 min and 24 h. These data suggest that up-regulation of DAT by in vivo pyrethroid exposure is an indirect effect and that longer-term exposure of cells results in apoptosis. Since DAT can greatly affect the vulnerability of dopamine neurons to neurotoxicants, up-regulation of DAT by deltamethrin and permethrin may increase the susceptibility of dopamine neurons to toxic insult, which may provide insight into the association between pesticide exposure and PD.
PMCID: PMC4755338  PMID: 16005927
Deltamethrin; Permethrin; Pyrethroid; Dopamine transporter; Parkinson’s disease
22.  Lung inflammation biomarkers and lung function in children chronically exposed to arsenic 
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2015;287(2):161-167.
Evidence suggests that exposure to arsenic in drinking water during early childhood or in utero is associated with an increase in respiratory symptoms and diseases in adulthood, however only a few studies have been carried out during those sensitive windows of exposure. Recently our group demonstrated that exposure to arsenic during early childhood or in utero was associated with impairment in the lung function in children and suggested that this adverse effect could be due to a chronic inflammatory response to the metalloid. Therefore, a cross-sectional study was designed in a cohort of children associating lung inflammatory biomarkers and lung function with urinary As levels. A total of 275 healthy children were partitioned into four study groups according with their As levels. Inflammation biomarkers were measured in sputum by ELISA and the lung function was evaluated by spirometry. Fifty eight percent of the studied children were found to have a restrictive spirometric pattern. In the two highest exposed groups, the Soluble Receptor for Advanced Glycation Endproducts (sRAGE) sputum level was significantly lower and Matrix Metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) concentration was higher. When the biomarkers were correlated to the urinary arsenic species, negative associations were found between dimethylarsinic (DMA), monomethylarsenic percentage (%MMA) and dimethylarsinic percentage (%DMA) with sRAGE and positive associations between %DMA with MMP-9 and with the MMP-9/Tissue Inhibitor of Metalloproteinase (TIMP-1) ratio. In conclusion, chronic arsenic exposure of children negatively correlates with sRAGE, and positively correlated with MMP-9 and MMP-9/TIMP-1 levels, and increases the frequency of an abnormal spirometric pattern.
PMCID: PMC4751871  PMID: 26048584
Soluble Receptor for Advanced Glycation Endproducts (sRAGE); Metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9); Tissue Inhibitor of Metalloproteinase (TIMP-1); Lung inflammation; Sputum; Arsenic
23.  Diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione exposure of human cultured airway epithelial cells: Ion transport effects and metabolism of butter flavoring agents 
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2015;289(3):542-549.
Inhalation of butter flavoring by workers in the microwave popcorn industry may result in “popcorn workers' lung.” In previous in vivo studies rats exposed for 6 h to vapor from the flavoring agents, diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione, acquired flavoring concentration-dependent damage of the upper airway epithelium and airway hyporeactivity to inhaled methacholine. Because ion transport is essential for lung fluid balance, we hypothesized that alterations in ion transport may be an early manifestation of butter flavoring-induced toxicity. We developed a system to expose cultured human bronchial/tracheal epithelial cells (NHBEs) to flavoring vapors. NHBEs were exposed for 6 h to diacetyl or 2,3-pentanedione vapors (25 or ≥60 ppm) and the effects on short circuit current and transepithelial resistance (Rt) were measured. Immediately after exposure to 25 ppm both flavorings reduced Na+ transport, without affecting Cl− transport or Na+,K+-pump activity. Rt was unaffected. Na+ transport recovered 18 h after exposure. Concentrations (100–360 ppm) of diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione reported earlier to give rise in vivo to epithelial damage, and 60 ppm, caused death of NHBEs 0 h post-exposure. Analysis of the basolateral medium indicated that NHBEs metabolize diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione to acetoin and 2-hydroxy-3-pentanone, respectively. The results indicate that ion transport is inhibited transiently in airway epithelial cells by lower concentrations of the flavorings than those that result in morphological changes of the cells in vivo or in vitro.
PMCID: PMC4739639  PMID: 26454031
Diacetyl; 2,3-Pentanedione; Ion transport; Human airway epithelial cells; Vapor exposure; Dicarbonyl/l-xylulose reductase
24.  Metallothionein Blocks Oxidative DNA Damage Induced by Acute Inorganic Arsenic Exposure 
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2014;282(3):267-274.
We studied how the protein metallothionein (MT) impacts arsenic-induced oxidative DNA damage (ODD) using cells that poorly express MT (MT-I/II double knockout embryonic cells; called MT-null cells) and wild-type (WT) MT competent cells. Arsenic (as NaAsO2) was less cytolethal over 24 h in WT cells (LC50 = 11.0 ± 1.3 µM; mean ± SEM) than in MT-null cells (LC50 = 5.6 ± 1.2 µM). ODD was measured by the immuno-spin trapping method. Arsenic (1 or 5 µM; 24 h) induced much less ODD in WT cells (121% and 141% of control, respectively) than in MT-null cells (202% and 260%). In WT cells arsenic caused concentration-dependent increases in MT expression (transcript and protein), and in the metal-responsive transcription factor-1 (MTF-1), which is required to induce the MT gene. In contrast, basal MT levels were not detectable in MT-null cells and unaltered by arsenic exposure. Transfection of MT-I into the MT-null cells markedly reduced arsenic-induced ODD levels. The transport genes, Abcc1 and Abcc2 were increased by arsenic in WT cells but either showed no or very limited increases in MT-null cells. Arsenic caused increases in oxidant stress defense genes HO-1 and GSTa2 in both WT and MT-null cells, but to much higher levels in WT cells. WT cells appear more adept at activating metal transport systems and oxidant response genes, although the role of MT in these responses is unclear. Overall, MT protects against arsenic-induced ODD in MT competent cells by potentially sequestration of scavenging oxidant radicals and/or arsenic.
PMCID: PMC4315697  PMID: 25485709
Arsenic; oxidative DNA damage; metallothionein; reactive oxygen species
25.  Jaridonin-induced G2/M phase arrest in human esophageal cancer cells is caused by reactive oxygen species-dependent Cdc2-tyr15 phosphorylation via ATM–Chk1/2–Cdc25C pathway 
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2014;282(2):227-236.
Jaridonin, a novel diterpenoid from Isodon rubescens, has been shown previously to inhibit proliferation of esophageal squamous cancer cells (ESCC) through G2/M phase cell cycle arrest. However, the involved mechanism is not fully understood. In this study, we found that the cell cycle arrest by Jaridonin was associated with the increased expression of phosphorylation of ATM at Ser1981 and Cdc2 at Tyr15. Jaridonin also resulted in enhanced phosphorylation of Cdc25C via the activation of checkpoint kinases Chk1 and Chk2, as well as in increased phospho-H2A.X (Ser139), which is known to be phosphorylated by ATM in response to DNA damage. Furthermore, Jaridonin-mediated alterations in cell cycle arrest were significantly attenuated in the presence of NAC, implicating the involvement of ROS in Jaridonin's effects. On the other hand, addition of ATM inhibitors reversed Jaridonin-related activation of ATM and Chk1/2 as well as phosphorylation of Cdc25C, Cdc2 and H2A.X and G2/M phase arrest. In conclusion, these findings identified that Jaridonin-induced cell cycle arrest in human esophageal cancer cells is associated with ROS-mediated activation of ATM–Chk1/2–Cdc25C pathway.
PMCID: PMC4721529  PMID: 25450480
Ent-kaurene diterpenoid; Rabdosia rubescens; ROS; ATM; Cell cycle arrest

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