Further studies on aberrant gene expression associated with arsenic-induced malignant transformation in rat liver TRL1215 cells

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Chronic arsenic exposure of rat liver epithelial TRL1215 cells induced malignant transformation in a concentration-dependent manner. To further define the molecular events of these arsenic-transformed cells (termed CAsE cells), gene expressions associated with arsenic carcinogenesis or influenced by methylation were examined. Real-time RT-PCR showed that at carcinogenic concentrations (500 nM, and to a less extent 250 nM of arsenite), the expressions of α-fetoprotein (AFP), Wilm's tumor protein-1 (WT-1), c-jun, c-myc, H-ras, c-met and hepatocyte growth factor, heme oxygenase-1, superoxide dismutase-1, glutathione-S-transferase-π and metallothionein-1 (MT) were increased between 3 to 12-fold, while expressions of insulin-like growth factor II (IGF-II) and fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR1) were essentially abolished. These changes were not significant at the non-carcinogenic concentration (125 nM), except for IGF-II. The positive cell-cycle regulators cyclin D1 and PCNA were overexpressed in CAsE cells, while the negative regulators p21 and p16 were suppressed. Western-blot confirmed increases in AFP, WT-1, cyclin D1 and decreases in p16 and p21 protein in CAsE cells. The CAsE cells over-expressed MT but the demethylating agent 5-aza-deoxycytidine (5-aza-dC, 2.5 μM, 72 h) stimulated further MT expression. 5-Aza-deoxycytidine restored the loss of expression of p21 in CAsE cells to control levels, but did not restore the expression of p16, IGF-II, or FGFR1, indicating the loss of expression of these genes is due to factors other than DNA methylation changes. Overall, an intricate variety of gene expression changes occur in arsenic-induced malignant transformation of liver cells including oncogene activation and alterations in expression of genes critical to growth regulation.

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