Chronic arsenic exposure impairs adaptive thermogenesis in male C57BL/6J mice

Felicia Castriota, Peter James H. Zushin, Sylvia S. Sanchez, Rachael V. Phillips, Alan Hubbard, Andreas Stahl, Martyn T. Smith, Jen Chywan Wang, Michele A. la Merrill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The global prevalence of type 2 diabetes (T2D) has doubled since 1980. Human epidemiological studies support arsenic exposure as a risk factor for T2D, although the precise mechanism is unclear. We hypothesized that chronic arsenic ingestion alters glucose homeostasis by impairing adaptive thermogenesis, i.e., body heat production in cold environments. Arsenic is a pervasive environmental contaminant, with more than 200 million people worldwide currently exposed to arsenic-contaminated drinking water. Male C57BL/6J mice exposed to sodium arsenite in drinking water at 300 μg/L for 9 wk experienced significantly decreased metabolic heat production when acclimated to chronic cold tolerance testing, as evidenced by indirect calorimetry, despite no change in physical activity. Arsenic exposure increased total fat mass and subcutaneous inguinal white adipose tissue (iWAT) mass. RNA sequencing analysis of iWAT indicated that arsenic dysregulated mitochondrial processes, including fatty acid metabolism. Western blotting in WAT confirmed that arsenic significantly decreased TOMM20, a correlate of mitochondrial abundance; PGC1A, a master regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis; and, CPT1B, the rate-limiting step of fatty acid oxidation (FAO). Our findings show that chronic arsenic exposure impacts the mitochondrial proteins of thermogenic tissues involved in energy expenditure and substrate regulation, providing novel mechanistic evidence for arsenic's role in T2D development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E667-E677
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2020


  • Adaptive thermogenesis
  • Arsenic
  • Brown adipose tissue
  • White adipose tissue

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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