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Thio-dimethylarsinate (thio-DMA), a recently discovered urine metabolite in humans, was investigated for its cytotoxic, genotoxic and cell-cycle disruptive effects in the cultured human hepatocarcinoma cell line, HepG2, and Syrian hamster embryo cells. In addition, the role of glutathione (GSH) on the cytotoxic effects of thio-DMA was investigated in terms of the effects of GSH depletion and the effects of exogenously added GSH. LC50 values of arsenicals for cells incubated for 48 h were 0.026 mM for thio-DMA, 0.343 mM for DMA and 3.66 mM for dithio-DMA. Depletion of cell GSH reduced the cytotoxic effects of thio-DMA. The cytotoxic effects of 0.02 mM and 0.05 mM thio-DMA were enhanced markedly when used in combination with 1 to 3 mM GSH, but decreased again when combined with 5 mM GSH. These results suggested that cytotoxic intermediates were generated by the interaction of thio-DMA with GSH, while an excessive amount of GSH suppressed the generation of these intermediates. Flow-cytometry showed that thio-DMA was an inducer of cells with 4N DNA and hypo 2N DNA. The results also demonstrated that cells arrested in the mitotic phase had abnormalities in their spindle organization and centrosome integrity. In addition, cells arrested in mitosis by thio-DMA had chromosome structural aberrations, such as chromatid gaps, chromatid breaks and chromatid exchanges. Moreover, the cytotoxic effects of thio-DMA may in part be associated with an apoptotic mode of cell death that was evaluated by the appearance of nucleosome level DNA fragmentations and an 85-kDa cleavage fragment of poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase. These findings suggest that the presence of thio-DMA in human urine has implications for human health in terms of arsenic metabolism and toxicity.