Impaired autophagic flux and p62-mediated EMT are involved in arsenite-induced transformation of L-02 cells

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Abstract

Autophagy is a catabolic process essential for preserving cellular homeostasis, and the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is involved during tissue development and cancer progression. In arsenite-treated human hepatic epithelial (L-02) cells, arsenite reduced the autophagic flux, which caused accumulation of p62, an adaptor and receptor of autophagy. Further, in arsenite-transformed L-02 cells, the levels of E-cadherin were attenuated, but the levels of vimentin, which is expressed in mesenchymal cells, and Snail, a transcription regulator of the EMT, were up-regulated. Thus, after chronic exposure of L-02 cells to arsenite, the impaired autophagic flux induced the accumulation of p62, which up-regulated the expression of Snail, a protein involved in arsenite-induced EMT of these cells. Knockdown of p62 by siRNA reversed the arsenite-induced EMT and decreased the capacities of arsenite-transformed L-02 cells for colony formation and invasion and migration. Therefore, in arsenite-induced transformation of L-02 cells, the accumulation of p62, by impairing autophagic flux, mediates the EMT via Snail. These results provide a previously unknown mechanism underlying arsenic toxicity and carcinogenicity.

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