Arsenite suppression of BMP signaling in human keratinocytes

Marjorie A. Phillips, Qin Qin, Qin Hu, Bin Zhao, Robert H. Rice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Arsenic, a human skin carcinogen, suppresses differentiation of cultured keratinocytes. Exploring the mechanism of this suppression revealed that BMP-6 greatly increased levels of mRNA for keratins 1 and 10, two of the earliest differentiation markers expressed, a process prevented by co-treatment with arsenite. BMP also stimulated, and arsenite suppressed, mRNA for FOXN1, an important transcription factor driving early keratinocyte differentiation. Keratin mRNAs increased slowly after BMP-6 addition, suggesting they are indirect transcriptional targets. Inhibition of Notch1 activation blocked BMP induction of keratins 1 and 10, while FOXN1 induction was largely unaffected. Supporting a requirement for Notch1 signaling in keratin induction, BMP increased levels of activated Notch1, which was blocked by arsenite. BMP also greatly decreased active ERK, while co-treatment with arsenite maintained active ERK. Inhibition of ERK signaling mimicked BMP by inducing keratin and FOXN1 mRNAs and by increasing active Notch1, effects blocked by arsenite. Of 6 dual-specificity phosphatases (DUSPs) targeting ERK, two were induced by BMP unless prevented by simultaneous exposure to arsenite and EGF. Knockdown of DUSP2 or DUSP14 using shRNAs greatly reduced FOXN1 and keratins 1 and 10 mRNA levels and their induction by BMP. Knockdown also decreased activated Notch1, keratin 1 and keratin 10 protein levels, both in the presence and absence of BMP. Thus, one of the earliest effects of BMP is induction of DUSPs, which increases FOXN1 transcription factor and activates Notch1, both required for keratin gene expression. Arsenite prevents this cascade by maintaining ERK signaling, at least in part by suppressing DUSP expression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)290-296
Number of pages7
JournalToxicology and Applied Pharmacology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 15 2013


  • Dual specificity phosphatases
  • EGF
  • ERK
  • FOXN1
  • Keratins 1 and 10
  • Notch1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Toxicology


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