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Background: Rapid industrialization is discharging toxic heavy metals into the environment, disturbing human health in many ways and causing various neurologic, cardiovascular, and dermatologic abnormalities and certain types of cancer. The presence of arsenic in drinking water from different urban and rural areas of the major cities of Pakistan, for example, Lahore, Faisalabad, and Kasur, was found to be beyond the permissible limit of 10 parts per billion set by the World Health Organization. Therefore the present study was initiated to examine the effects of arsenite (As+3) on DNA biosynthesis and cell death.
Methods: After performing cytotoxic assays on a human epithelial carcinoma cell line, expression analysis was done by quantitative polymerase chain reaction, western blotting, and flow cytometry.
Results: We show that As+3 ions have a dose- and time-dependent cytotoxic effect through the activation of the caspase-dependent apoptotic pathway. In contrast to previous research, the present study was designed to explore the early cytotoxic effects produced in human cells during exposure to heavy dosage of As+3 (7.5 μg/ml). Even treatment for 1 h significantly increased the mRNA levels of p21 and p27 and caspases 3, 7, and 9. It was interesting that there was no change in the expression levels of p53, which plays an important role in G2/M phase cell cycle arrest.
Conclusion: Our results indicate that sudden exposure of cells to arsenite (As+3) resulted in cytotoxicity and mitochondrial-mediated apoptosis resulting from up-regulation of caspases.
Keywords: apoptosis; epithelial carcinoma; cytotoxicity; arsenite; caspases; Pakistan Responsible Editor: Amin Bredan, VIB Inflammation Research Center & Ghent University, Belgium.