Global alteration of gene expression in human keratinocytes by inorganic arsenic

Miguel A. Rea, Jeffrey Gregg, Q. Qin, Marjorie A. Phillips, Robert H. Rice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Alteration of gene expression by inorganic arsenic has been studied in cultured human keratinocytes derived from normal epidermis, a premalignant lesion and a malignant tumor. The purpose was to find whether these cells displayed common alterations in gene expression that might elucidate the mechanism of arsenic action. Global analysis of ∼12 000 genes by microarray showed that ∼30% were expressed. Of these, transcription of a substantial fraction (up to 12%) was altered, nearly twice as many being suppressed as stimulated by 2-fold or more at 2 μM sodium arsenite or 6 μM arsenate, which did not affect cell growth. At 0.67 μM arsenite (50 p.p.b.), effects on transcription were less pronounced but clearly evident. Genes whose transcription was altered in common among all the treated keratinocytes included those induced by reactive oxygen, of which heme oxygenase-1 displayed the highest fold induction. Genes indicative of reactive oxygen generation were detected at the earliest time examined, raising the possibility this feature drives subsequent cellular responses. Unlike some agents that produced transient induction of heme oxygenase-1, arsenicals produced sustained induction. Comparison with other agents producing reactive oxygen in the cells, as reflected in heme oxygenase-1 induction, suggested cellular differentiation was suppressed by sustained but not transient generation of reactive oxygen. Sustained global changes in gene expression were seen in target cells treated chronically with inorganic arsenic at concentrations consumed by millions of humans in contaminated drinking water.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)747-756
Number of pages10
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research


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