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University of Arizona

Superfund Research Program

Critical Events in the Transformation of Human Bladder Cells by Low-Level Arsenic Exposure

Project Leader: A. Jay Gandolfi
Grant Number: P42ES004940
Funding Period: 2000-2015
View this project in the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT)

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Project Summary (2010-2015)

The human bladder is the most sensitive intemal organ to arsenic-induced carcinogenesis. The bladder is exposed to inorganic arsenicals and methylated metabolites both systemically and via the urine. Methylated metabolites of arsenic have been found to be more cytotoxic than inorganic arsenicals. The UROtsa cell, an immortalized human urothelium cell, has become an accepted system for examining the toxic effects of arsenicals to the bladder. Year-long chronic low-level exposure of arsenite [1 µM As(III)] or the more toxic arsenic metabolite [monomethyl-arsonous acid; 50 nM MMA(III)] transformed UROtsa cells such that they formed tumors when injected into immuno-deficient mice. Current studies indicate that much shorter exposures (3 months) to low-level MMA(III) is sufficient to allow them to grow in soft agar and form tumors in immuno-deficient mice. These results indicate that MMA (III) causes critical, irreversible events in UROtsa cells in the first 3 months of exposure.

Thus the goal of Dr. Ganolfi's research is to find the critical events that short-term, low-level As(III) or MMA(III) causes in UROtsa cells, resulting in their eventual transition into malignantly transformed cells. To accomplish this goal, Dr. Gandolfi's research group is doing low-level, short-term (0-3) exposures of UROtsa cells to arsenicals [1 µM As(III) and 50 nM MMA(III)] to determine the minimal exposure and time required to malignantly transform these cells. Once this minimal exposure time point is established we will examine the cells for changes in specific alterations in macromolecules, signaling systems, or regulatory systems resulting in the irreversible changes. Since previous studies have found reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation by low-level exposure to As(III) and MMA(III), the researchers are determining if these early effects of arsenicals on UROtsa cells are mediated by ROS generation. To determine if low-level arsenicals can transform "normal" human bladder cells, primary cultures of human bladder cells are being similarly examined. Lastly, pivotal events in the transformation of bladder cells by low level arsenicals are being examined as possible biomarkers in exposed populations. Overall, these studies clarify the toxic effects of low-level arsenic in a human bladder model and provide potential biomarkers for arsenic-induced bladder injury.

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