The effects of benzene and the metabolites phenol and catechol on c-Myb and Pim-1 signaling in HD3 cells

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Exposure to the environmental toxicant benzene has been proposed to lead to leukemogenesis. The transcription factor c-Myb plays a role in blood cell differentiation and can be regulated by the serine–threonine kinase Pim-1. Overexpressed versions of c-Myb and Pim-1 are believed to play a key role in the development of a wide variety of leukemias and tumors. In our study, we evaluated the effects of benzene and the metabolites catechol and phenol on c-Myb signaling to investigate our hypothesis that benzene exerts its toxicity by interfering with this pathway. To evaluate this hypothesis, HD3 chicken erythroblast cells were transiently transfected with a c-Myb responsive luciferase reporter plasmid and then exposed to benzene, catechol, or phenol (0–300 μM) for 1–24 h before nonproprietary dual luciferase activities were measured. Our results demonstrated that catechol exposure caused a time- and concentration-dependent increase in c-Myb activity with significance occurring at 100 and 300 μM after 24 h of exposure, which was independent of increased Pim-1 protein, but dependent on increased c-Myb phosphorylation. Benzene and phenol exposure resulted in small but significant decreases in c-Myb activity that were not dose- and time-dependent, nor was increased Pim-1 protein involved. These results are consistent with other studies, which suggest metabolite differences in benzene-mediated toxicity. More importantly, this study supports the hypothesis that benzene may mediate its toxicity through metabolite-mediated alterations in the c-Myb signaling pathway.

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