Inorganic arsenic oxides have been identified as carcinogens in several human tissues, including epidermis. Due to the chemical similarity between trivalent inorganic arsenic (arsenite) and antimony (antimonite), we hypothesized that common intracellular targets lead to similarities in cellular responses. Indeed, transcriptional and proteomic profiling revealed remarkable similarities in differentially expressed genes and proteins resulting from exposure of cultured human epidermal keratinocytes to arsenite and antimonite in contrast to comparisons of arsenite with other metal compounds. These data were analyzed to predict upstream regulators and affected signaling pathways following arsenite and antimonite treatments. A majority of the top findings in each category were identical after treatment with either compound. Inspection of the predicted upstream regulators led to previously unsuspected roles for oncostatin M, corticosteroids and ephrins in mediating cellular response. The influence of these predicted mediators was then experimentally verified. Together with predictions of transcription factor effects more generally, the analysis has led to model signaling networks largely accounting for arsenite and antimonite action. The striking parallels between responses to arsenite and antimonite indicate the skin carcinogenic risk of exposure to antimonite merits close scrutiny.
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