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Toxicological Sciences

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One of the admirable aspects of science is that its practitioners accept that advancing the field is an ongoing process. There is always more to be discovered. I view scientific publishing in a similar light. Last month, we instituted several changes to the journal, and I look forward to receiving your feedback. I anticipate some of the changes will be welcomed while others will not. ToxSci relies on the feedback from our readers, authors, and reviewers to assure that we are serving the research community to the highest degree. The editorial staff is dedicated to producing a high-quality journal that features outstanding science like that seen in this issue. In their Forum article, Wu and coworkers describe how increasing dietary diversity can reduce exposure to foodborne toxins. This is an important public health observation that can help mitigate many of the toxic effects described in the pages of the ToxSci. You will also note that we are using a new format for our Letters to the Editor. Rather than appearing at the end of the journal they immediately follow the highlights below. In this issue, the formulation of caroboxyfullerenes is the topic of discussion. I invite you to Look Inside ToxSci for the best original research in the field of toxicology. —Gary W. Miller


Naturally occurring foodborne toxins are common in subsistence diets of low-income human populations worldwide. Often, these populations rely on one or two staple foods for the bulk of their calories, making them more susceptible to chronic intake of certain toxins. Exposure to common foodborne toxins is associated with diverse conditions such as cancer, immunotoxicity, growth impairment, and neurological deficits. Interventions focused solely on reducing toxin levels have proven difficult to sustain. Using case studies of two foodborne toxins, aflatoxin and cassava cyanide, this article addresses the heightened risk of particular diseases from eating monotonous diets based in maize, groundnuts, and cassava: common in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia. We also discuss the potential role of increased dietary diversity in counteracting these diseases. Increased dietary diversity can reduce consumption of toxins and increase intake of nutrients that could counteract the toxicity of such chemicals. In Qidong, China, a population that previously consumed a monotonous maize-based diet and increased dietary diversity since the 1980s has experienced a dramatic reduction in liver cancer mortalities. That liver cancer decreased as dietary diversity increased is the catalyst for the hypothesis that dietary diversity could have a direct impact on reducing health effects of foodborne toxins. Future research, agricultural development, and food policy reforms should take into consideration the multifaceted benefits associated with improved dietary diversity. Collaborations between toxicologists, nutritionists, and policymakers are important to development of sustainable interventions to reduce foodborne toxin exposure and promote health through increased dietary diversity.


Halobenzoquinones (HBQs) are a new class of drinking water disinfection byproducts (DBPs) and are capable of producing reactive oxygen species and causing oxidative damage to proteins and DNA in T24 human bladder carcinoma cells. However, the exact mechanism of the cytotoxicity of HBQs is unknown. Here, we investigated the role of glutathione (GSH) and GSH-related enzymes including glutathione S-transferase (GST) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx) in defense against HBQ-induced cytotoxicity in T24 cells. The HBQs are 2,6-dichloro-1,4-benzoquinone (DCBQ), 2,6-dichloro-3-methyl-1,4-benzoquinone (DCMBQ), 2,3,6-trichloro-1,4-benzoquinone (TriCBQ), and 2,6-dibromobenzoquinone (DBBQ). We found that depletion of cellular GSH could sensitize cells to HBQs and extracellular GSH supplementation could attenuate HBQ-induced cytotoxicity. HBQs caused significant cellular GSH depletion and increased cellular GST activities in a concentration-dependent manner. Our mass spectrometry study confirms that HBQs can conjugate with GSH, explaining in part the mechanism of GSH depletion by HBQs. The effects of HBQs on GPx activity are compound dependent; DCMBQ and DBBQ decrease cellular GPx activities, whereas DCBQ and TriCBQ have no significant effects. Pearson correlation analysis shows that the cellular GSH level is inversely correlated with ROS production and cellular GST activity in HBQ-treated cells. These results support a GSH and GSH-related enzyme-mediated detoxification mechanism of HBQs in T24 cells.


Microsomal enzymes generate H2O2 in the presence of NADPH. In this reaction, referred to as "oxidase" activity, H2O2 is generated directly or indirectly via the formation of superoxide anion. In the presence of redox active transition metals, H2O2 can form highly toxic hydroxyl radicals and, depending on the "oxidase" activity of individual cytochrome P450 isoenzymes, this can compromise cellular functioning and contribute to tissue injury. In the present studies, we compared the initial rates of H2O2 generating activity of microsomal preparations containing various human recombinant cytochromes P450s. In the absence of cytochrome P450s the human recombinant NADPH cytochrome P450 reductase (CPR) generated low, but detectable amounts of H2O2 (~0.04 nmol H2O2/min/100 units of reductase). Significantly greater activity was detected in preparations containing individual cytochrome P450s coexpressed with CPR (from 6.0 nmol H2O2/min/nmol P450 to 0.2 nmol/min/nmol P450); CYP1A1 was the most active, followed by CYP2D6, CYP3A4, CYP2E1, CYP4A11, CYP1A2, and CYP2C subfamily enzymes. H2O2 generating activity of the cytochrome P450s was independent of the ratio of CYP/CPR. Thus, similar H2O2 generating activity was noted with the same cytochrome P450s (CYP3A4, CYP2E1, and CYP2C9) expressed at or near the ratio of CYP/CPR in human liver microsomes (5–7), and when CPR was present in excess (CYP/CPR = 0.2–0.3). Because CYP3A4/5/7 represent up to 40% of total cytochrome P450 in the liver, these data indicate that these enzymes are the major source of H2O2 in human liver microsomes.


A new antiepileptic synaptic vesicle 2a (SV2a) ligand drug candidate was tested in 4-week oral toxicity studies in rat and dog. Brown pigment inclusions were found in the liver of high-dose dogs. The morphology of the deposits and the accompanying liver changes (increased plasma liver enzymes, increased total hepatic porphyrin level, decreased liver ferrochelatase activity, combined induction, and inactivation of cytochrome P-450 CYP2B11) suggested disruption of the heme biosynthetic cascade. None of these changes was seen in rat although this species was exposed to higher parent drug levels. Toxicokinetic analysis and in vitro metabolism assays in hepatocytes showed that dog is more prone to oxidize the drug candidate than rat. Mass spectrometry analysis of liver samples from treated dogs revealed an N-alkylprotoporphyrin adduct. The elucidation of its chemical structure suggested that the drug transforms into a reactive metabolite which is structurally related to a known reference porphyrogenic agent allylisopropylacetamide. That particular metabolite, primarily produced in dog but neither in rat nor in human, has the potential to alkylate the prosthetic heme of CYP. Overall, the data suggested that the drug candidate should not be porphyrogenic in human. This case study further exemplifies the species variability in the susceptibility to drug-induced porphyria.


The health effects of low-level chronic exposure to cadmium are increasingly recognized. To improve the risk assessment, it is essential to know the relation between cadmium intake, body burden, and biomarker levels of cadmium. We combined a physiologically-based toxicokinetic (PBTK) model for cadmium with a data set from healthy kidney donors to re-estimate the model parameters and to test the effects of gender and serum ferritin on systemic uptake. Cadmium levels in whole blood, blood plasma, kidney cortex, and urinary excretion from 82 men and women were used to calculate posterior distributions for model parameters using Markov-chain Monte Carlo analysis. For never- and ever-smokers combined, the daily systemic uptake was estimated at 0.0063 μg cadmium/kg body weight in men, with 35% increased uptake in women and a daily uptake of 1.2 μg for each pack-year per calendar year of smoking. The rate of urinary excretion from cadmium accumulated in the kidney was estimated at 0.000042 day–1, corresponding to a half-life of 45 years in the kidneys. We have provided an improved model of cadmium kinetics. As the new parameter estimates derive from a single study with measurements in several compartments in each individual, these new estimates are likely to be more accurate than the previous ones where the data used originated from unrelated data sets. The estimated urinary excretion of cadmium accumulated in the kidneys was much lower than previous estimates, neglecting this finding may result in a marked under-prediction of the true kidney burden.


Drug-induced phospholipidosis is one of the major concerns in drug development and clinical treatment. The present study involved the use of a nontargeting lipidomic analysis with liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry to explore noninvasive blood biomarkers for hepatic phospholipidosis from rat plasma. We used three tricyclic antidepressants (clomipramine [CPM], imipramine [IMI], and amitriptyline [AMT]) for the model of phospholipidosis in hepatocytes and ketoconazole (KC) for the model of phospholipidosis in cholangiocytes and administered treatment for 3 and 28 days each. Total plasma lipids were extracted and measured. Lipid molecules contributing to the separation of control and drug-treated rat plasma in a multivariate orthogonal partial least squares discriminant analysis were identified. Four lysophosphatidylcholines (LPCs) (16:1, 18:1, 18:2, and 20:4) and 42:1 hexosylceramide (HexCer) were identified as molecules separating control and drug-treated rats in all models of phospholipidosis in hepatocytes. In addition, 16:1, 18:2, and 20:4 LPCs and 42:1 HexCer were identified in a model of hepatic phospholipidosis in cholangiocytes, although LPCs were identified only in the case of 3-day treatment with KC. The levels of LPCs were decreased by drug-induced phospholipidosis, whereas those of 42:1 HexCer were increased. The increase in 42:1 HexCer was much higher in the case of IMI and AMT than in the case of CPM; moreover, the increase induced by IMI was dose-dependent. Structural characterization determining long-chain base and hexose delineated that 42:1 HexCer was d18:1/24:0 glucosylceramide (GluCer). In summary, our study demonstrated that d18:1/24:0 GluCer and LPCs are potential novel biomarkers for drug-induced hepatic phospholipidosis.


The differential risk of exposure to fumonisin (FB), deoxynivalenol (DON), and zearalenone (ZEA) mycotoxins to the South African population, residing in the nine Provinces was assessed during a cross-sectional grain consumer survey. The relative per capita maize intake (g/day) was stratified by gender, ethnicity, and Province and the probable daily intake (PDI) for each mycotoxin (ng/kg body weight/day) calculated utilizing SPECIAL and SUPER dry milled maize fractions representing different exposure scenarios. Men consumed on an average more maize (173 g/day) than women (142 g/day) whereas the black African ethnic group had the highest intake (279 g/day) followed by the Colored group (169 g/day) with the Asian/Indian and White groups consuming lower quantities of 101 and 80 g/day, respectively. The estimated mean PDIs for the various subgroups and Provinces, utilizing the different dry milled maize fractions, were below the provisional maximum tolerable daily intake (PMTDI) for each mycotoxin. A distinct and more sensitive mycotoxin risk assessment model (MYCORAM) for exposure, stratified by Province and ethnicity were developed utilizing specific maize intake increments (g/kg body weight/day) that provides information on the percentage of the population exposed above the PMTDI for each mycotoxin. Evaluation of the MYCORAM utilizing commercial and experimentally derived SPECIAL milling fractions, containing predefined mycotoxins levels, predicts the percentage of maize consumers exposed above the respective PMTDI. Safety modeling using the MYCORAM could also predict a maximum tolerated level adequate to safeguard all South African maize consumers including the most vulnerable groups.


Detection of compound-related neurodegeneration is currently limited to brain histopathology in veterinary species and functional measurements such as electroencephalography and observation of clinical signs in patients. The objective of these studies was to investigate whether concentrations of spectrin breakdown product 145 (SBDP-145) in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) correlate with the severity of neurodegeneration in rats administered neurotoxic agents, as part of a longer term objective of developing in vivo biomarkers of neurotoxicity for use in non-clinical and clinical safety studies. Non-erythroid alpha-II spectrin is a cytoskeletal protein cleaved by the protease calpain when this enzyme is activated by dysregulation of calcium in injured cells. Calcium dysregulation is also associated with some toxicological responses in animals, and may be sufficient to activate neuronal calpain and produce SBDPs that can be released into CSF. Neurotoxicants (kainic acid, 2-chloropropionic acid, bromethalin, and pentylenetetrazole) known to affect different portions of the brain were administered to rats in dose-response and time-course studies in which neurodegeneration was measured by histopathology and SBDP-145 concentrations in CSF were measured by ELISA. We consistently observed >3-fold increases in SBDP-145 concentration in rats with minimal to slight neurodegenerative lesions, and 20 to 150-fold increases in animals with more severe lesions. In contrast, compounds that caused non-degenerative changes in central nervous system (CNS) did not increase SBDP-145 in CSF. These data support expanded use of SBDP-145 as a biomarker for monitoring compound-induced neurodegeneration in pre-clinical studies, and support the investigation of clinical applications of this biomarker to promote safe dosing of patients with compounds that have potential to cause neurodegeneration.


Chlorpyrifos oxon (CPO), the toxic metabolite of the organophosphorus (OP) insecticide chlorpyrifos, causes developmental neurotoxicity in humans and rodents. CPO is hydrolyzed by paraoxonase-1 (PON1), with protection determined by PON1 levels and the human Q192R polymorphism. To examine how the Q192R polymorphism influences fetal toxicity associated with gestational CPO exposure, we measured enzyme inhibition and fetal-brain gene expression in wild-type (PON1+/+), PON1-knockout (PON1–/–), and tgHuPON1R192 and tgHuPON1Q192 transgenic mice. Pregnant mice exposed dermally to 0, 0.50, 0.75, or 0.85 mg/kg/d CPO from gestational day (GD) 6 through 17 were sacrificed on GD18. Biomarkers of CPO exposure inhibited in maternal tissues included brain acetylcholinesterase (AChE), red blood cell acylpeptide hydrolase (APH), and plasma butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) and carboxylesterase (CES). Fetal plasma BChE was inhibited in PON1–/– and tgHuPON1Q192, but not PON1+/+ or tgHuPON1R192 mice. Fetal brain AChE and plasma CES were inhibited in PON1–/– mice, but not in other genotypes. Weighted gene co-expression network analysis identified five gene modules based on clustering of the correlations among their fetal-brain expression values, allowing for correlation of module membership with the phenotypic data on enzyme inhibition. One module that correlated highly with maternal brain AChE activity had a large representation of homeobox genes. Gene set enrichment analysis revealed multiple gene sets affected by gestational CPO exposure in tgHuPON1Q192 but not tgHuPON1R192 mice, including gene sets involved in protein export, lipid metabolism, and neurotransmission. These data indicate that maternal PON1 status modulates the effects of repeated gestational CPO exposure on fetal-brain gene expression and on inhibition of both maternal and fetal biomarker enzymes.


The vitellogenin receptor (Vtgr) plays an important role in fish reproduction. This receptor functions to incorporate vitellogenin (Vtg), a macromolecule synthesized and released from the liver in the bloodstream, into oocytes where it is processed into yolk. Although studies have focused on the functional role of Vtgr in fish, the mechanistic control of this gene is still unexplored. Here we report the identification and analysis of the first piscine 5' regulatory region of the vtgr gene which was cloned from largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides). Using this putative promoter sequence, we investigated a role for hormones, including insulin and 17β-estradiol (E2), in transcriptional regulation through cell-based reporter assays. No effect of insulin was observed, however, E2 was able to repress transcriptional activity of the vtgr promoter through select estrogen receptor subtypes, Esr1 and Esr2a but not Esr2b. Electrophoretic mobility shift assay demonstrated that Esr1 likely interacts with the vtgr promoter region through half ERE and/or SP1 sites, in part. Finally we also show that ethinylestradiol (EE2), but not bisphenol-A (BPA), represses promoter activity similarly to E2. These results reveal for the first time that the Esr1 isoform may play an inhibitory role in the expression of LMB vtgr mRNA under the influence of E2, and potent estrogens such as EE2. In addition, this new evidence suggests that vtgr may be a target of select endocrine disrupting compounds through environmental exposures.


This study tested the hypothesis that bromate (KBrO3)-induced renal cell death is mediated by epigenetic mechanisms. Global DNA methylation, as assessed by 5-methylcytosine staining, was not changed in normal rat kidney cells treated with acute cytotoxic doses of KBrO3 (100 and 200 ppm), as compared with controls. However, KBrO3 treatment did increase p38, p53 and histone 2AX (H2AX) phosphorylation, and p21 expression. Treatment of cells with inhibitors of DNA methyltransferase (5-azacytidine or 5-Aza) and histone deacetylase (trichostatin A or TSA) in addition to KBrO3 increased cytotoxicity, as compared with cells exposed to KBrO3 alone. 5-Aza and TSA co-treatment did not alter p38 or p53 phosphorylation, but slightly decreased H2AX phosphorylation and significantly decreased p21 expression. We also assessed epigenetic changes in cells treated under sub-chronic conditions with environmentally relevant concentrations of KBrO3. Under these conditions (0–10ppm KBrO3 for up to 18 days), we detected no increases in cell death or DNA damage. In contrast, slight alterations were detected in the phosphorylation of H2AX, p38, and p53. Sub-chronic low-dose KBrO3 treatment also induced a biphasic response in p21 expression, with lower concentrations increasing expression, but higher concentrations decreasing expression. Methylation-specific PCR demonstrated that sub-chronic KBrO3 treatment altered the methylation of cytosine bases in the p21 gene, as compared with controls, correlating to alterations in p21 protein expression. Collectively, these data show the novel finding that KBrO3-induced renal cell death is altered by inhibitors of epigenetic modifying enzymes and that KBrO3 itself induces epigenetic changes in the p21 gene.


The anti-neoplastic prodrug, cyclophosphamide, requires biotransformation to phosphoramide mustard (PM), which partitions to volatile chloroethylaziridine (CEZ). PM and CEZ are ovotoxicants, however their ovarian biotransformation remains ill-defined. This study investigated PM and CEZ metabolism mechanisms through the utilization of cultured postnatal day 4 (PND4) Fisher 344 (F344) rat ovaries exposed to vehicle control (1% dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO)) or PM (60μM) for 2 or 4 days. Quantification of mRNA levels via an RT2 profiler PCR array and target-specific RT-PCR along with Western blotting found increased mRNA and protein levels of xenobiotic metabolism genes including microsomal epoxide hydrolase (Ephx1) and glutathione S-transferase isoform pi (Gstp). PND4 ovaries were treated with 1% DMSO, PM (60μM), cyclohexene oxide to inhibit EPHX1 (CHO; 2mM), or PM + CHO for 4 days. Lack of functional EPHX1 increased PM-induced ovotoxicity, suggesting a detoxification role for EPHX1. PND4 ovaries were also treated with 1% DMSO, PM (60μM), BSO (Glutathione (GSH) depletion; 100μM), GEE (GSH supplementation; 2.5mM), PM ± BSO, or PM ± GEE for 4 days. GSH supplementation prevented PM-induced follicle loss, whereas no impact of GSH depletion was observed. Lastly, the effect of ovarian GSH on CEZ liberation and ovotoxicity was evaluated. Both untreated and GEE-treated PND4 ovaries were plated adjacent to ovaries receiving PM + GEE or PM + BSO treatments. Less CEZ-induced ovotoxicity was observed with both GEE and BSO treatments indicating reduced CEZ liberation from PM. Collectively, this study supports ovarian biotransformation of PM, thereby influencing the ovotoxicity that ensues.


Hepatocyte (HPC) apoptosis occurs in association with hepatotoxic responses and chronic liver disease, and is coupled to activation of the blood coagulation cascade. HPCs have been shown to express tissue factor (TF), the primary activator of blood coagulation, in a form that lacks procoagulant activity. In this study, we determined the effect of inducing HPC apoptosis on the procoagulant activity of TF. Treatment of primary mouse HPCs with the Fas death receptor agonist (anti-CD95 antibody, Jo2) triggered apoptosis as shown by cleavage of caspase-3, increased caspase-3 proteolytic activity, and cell surface exposure of phosphatidylserine (PS). Jo2-induced apoptosis significantly increased TF-dependent factor Xa generation by HPCs. Moreover, Jo2 treatment was associated with increased levels of microparticle-associated TF procoagulant activity in the culture medium. Pretreatment with a caspase-3 inhibitor significantly reduced Jo2-induced HPC TF activity and prevented the increase in microparticle-associated TF procoagulant activity. Application of the high-affinity PS-binding protein lactadherin inhibited TF-dependent factor Xa generation by Jo2-treated HPCs and dramatically reduced microparticle-associated TF procoagulant activity. Treatment of wild-type mice with a sublethal dose of Jo2 was associated with a robust increase in the activation of coagulation as measured by plasma thrombin-antithrombin (TAT) levels; whereas mice with liver-specific TF deficiency had significantly lower TAT levels. Overall, the results indicate that Fas-initiated, caspase-3-dependent HPC apoptosis increases TF procoagulant activity through a mechanism involving PS externalization. This suggests that activation of liver TF likely contributes to the procoagulant state associated with HPC apoptosis in liver toxicity and disease.


Dioxin is a ubiquitous environmental pollutant that induces toxicity when bound to the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR). Significant differences in susceptibility of mouse strains to dioxin toxicity are largely accounted for by the dissociation constant of binding to dioxins of AhR subtypes encoded by different alleles. We showed that cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and microsomal prostaglandin E synthase-1 (mPGES-1), components of a prostanoid synthesis pathway, play essential roles in the onset of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) induced hydronephrosis of neonatal mice. Although C57BL/6J and BALB/cA mice harbor AhR receptors highly responsive to TCDD, they were found by chance to differ significantly in the incidence of TCDD-induced hydronephrosis. Therefore, the goal of the present study was to determine the molecular basis of this difference in susceptibility to TCDD toxicity. For this purpose, we administered C57BL/6J and BALB/cA dams’ TCDD at an oral dose of 15 or 80 μg/kg on postnatal day (PND) 1 to expose pups to TCDD via lactation, and the pups’ kidneys were collected on PND 7. The incidence of hydronephrosis in C57BL/6J pups (64%) was greater than in BALB/cA pups (0%, p < 0.05), despite similarly increased levels of COX-2 mRNA. The incidence of hydronephrosis in these mouse strains paralleled the levels of renal mPGES-1 mRNA and early growth response 1 (Egr-1) that modulates mPGES-1 gene expression, as well as PGE2 concentrations in urine. Although these mouse strains possess AhR alleles tightly bound to TCDD, their difference in incidence and severity of hydronephrosis can be explained, in part, by differences in the expression of mPGES-1 and Egr-1.


Paraquat is a herbicide that is highly toxic to the lungs and kidneys following acute exposures. Prior studies have demonstrated that the organic cation transporter 2 and multidrug and toxin extrusion protein 1 contribute to the urinary secretion of paraquat in the kidneys. The purpose of this study was to determine whether the multidrug resistance protein 1 (MDR1/Mdr1, ABCB1, or P-glycoprotein) also participates in the removal of paraquat from the kidneys and protects against renal injury. Paraquat transport and toxicity were quantified in human renal proximal tubule epithelial cells (RPTEC) that endogenously express MDR1, HEK293 cells overexpressing MDR1, and Mdr1a/1b knockout mice. In RPTEC cells, reduction of MDR1 activity using the antagonist PSC833 or siRNA transfection increased the cellular accumulation of paraquat by 50%. Reduced efflux of paraquat corresponded with enhanced cytotoxicity in PSC833-treated cells. Likewise, stable overexpression of the human MDR1 gene in HEK293 cells reduced intracellular levels of paraquat by 50%. In vivo studies assessed the renal accumulation and subsequent nephrotoxicity of paraquat (10 or 30 mg/kg ip) in wild-type and Mdr1a/1b knockout mice. At 4 h after paraquat treatment, renal concentrations of paraquat in the kidneys of Mdr1a/1b knockout mice were 750% higher than wild-type mice. By 72 h, paraquat-treated Mdr1a/1b knockout mice had more extensive tubular degeneration and significantly greater mRNA expression of kidney injury-responsive genes, including kidney injury molecule-1, lipocalin-2, and NAD(P)H quinone oxidoreductase 1, compared with wild-type mice. In conclusion, MDR1/Mdr1 participates in the elimination of paraquat from the kidneys and protects against subsequent toxicity.


The development of nephrotoxicity limits the maximum achievable dosage and treatment intervals for cisplatin chemotherapy. Therefore, identifying mechanisms that regulate this toxicity could offer novel methods to optimize cisplatin delivery. MicroRNAs are capable of regulating many different genes, and can influence diverse cellular processes, including cell death and apoptosis. We previously observed miR-155 to be highly increased following ischemic or toxic injury to the kidneys and, therefore, sought to determine whether mice deficient in miR-155 would respond differently to kidney injury. We treated C57BL/6 and miR-155–/– mice with 20 mg/kg of cisplatin and found a significantly higher level of kidney injury in the miR-155–/– mice. Genome-wide expression profiling and bioinformatic analysis indicated the activation of a number of canonical signaling pathways relating to apoptosis and oxidative stress over the course of the injury, and identified potential upstream regulators of these effects. One predicted upstream regulator was c-Fos, which has two confirmed miR-155 binding sites in its 3' UTR and, therefore, can be directly regulated by miR-155. We established that the miR-155–/– mice had significantly higher levels of c-Fos mRNA and protein than the C57BL/6 mice at 72 h after cisplatin exposure. These data indicate a role for miR-155 in the cisplatin response and suggest that targeting of c-Fos could be investigated to reduce cisplatin-induced nephrotoxicity.


Hydrogen sulphide (H2S), a chemical hazard in oil and gas production, has recently become a dreadful method of suicide, posing specific risks and challenges for the first responders. Currently, there is no proven effective treatment against H2S poisoning and its severe neurological, respiratory or cardiac after-effects. We have recently described that H2S is present in various compartments, or pools, in the body during sulphide exposure, which have different levels of toxicity. The general goals of our study were to (1) determine the concentrations and kinetics of the various pools of hydrogen sulphide in the blood, i.e., gaseous (CgH2S) versus total sulphide, i.e., reacting with monobromobimane (CMBBH2S), during and following H2S exposure in a small and large mammal and (2) establish the interaction between the pools of H2S and a methemoglobin (MetHb) solution or a high dose of hydroxocobalamin (HyCo). We found that CgH2S during and following H2S infusion was similar in sedated sheep and rats at any given rate of infusion/kg and provoked symptoms, i.e., hyperpnea and apnea, at the same CgH2S. After H2S administration was stopped, CgH2S disappeared within 1 min. CMBBH2S also dropped to 2–3μM, but remained above baseline levels for at least 30 min. Infusion of a MetHb solution during H2S infusion produced an immediate reduction in the free/soluble pool of H2S only, whereas CMBBH2S increased by severalfold. HyCo (70 mg/kg) also decreased the concentrations of free/soluble H2S to almost zero; CgH2S returned to pre-HyCo levels within a maximum of 20 min, if H2S infusion is maintained. These results are discussed in the context of a relevant scenario, wherein antidotes can only be administered after H2S exposure.


The composition of diesel exhaust has changed over the past decade due to the increased use of alternative fuels, like biodiesel, and to new regulations on diesel engine emissions. Given the changing nature of diesel fuels and diesel exhaust emissions, a need exists to understand the human health implications of switching to "cleaner" diesel engines run with particulate filters and engines run on alternative fuels like biodiesel. We exposed well-differentiated normal human bronchial epithelial cells to fresh, complete exhaust from a diesel engine run (1) with and without a diesel particulate filter and (2) using either traditional petro- or alternative biodiesel. Despite the lowered emissions in filter-treated exhaust (a 91–96% reduction in mass), significant increases in transcripts associated with oxidative stress and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon response were observed in all exposure groups and were not significantly different between exposure groups. Our results suggest that biodiesel and filter-treated diesel exhaust elicits as great, or greater a cellular response as unfiltered, traditional petrodiesel exhaust in a representative model of the bronchial epithelium.


Epidemiological studies suggest that exposure to environmental chemicals increases the risk of developing autoimmune liver disease. However, the identity of specific chemical perpetrators and the mechanisms whereby environmental chemicals modify liver disease is unclear. Previous studies link exposure to trichloroethylene (TCE) with the development of autoimmune liver disease and exacerbation of autoimmunity in lupus-prone MRL mice. In this study, we utilized NOD.c3c4 mice, which spontaneously develop autoimmune cholangitis bearing resemblance to some features of primary biliary cirrhosis. Nine-week-old female NOD.c3c4 mice were given TCE (0.5 mg/ml) or its vehicle (1% Cremophor-EL) in drinking water for 4 weeks. TCE had little effect on clinical chemistry, biliary cyst formation, or hepatic CD3+ T-cell accumulation. Hepatic microarray profiling revealed a dramatic suppression of early growth response 1 (EGR1) mRNA in livers of TCE-treated mice, which was verified by qPCR and immunohistochemical staining. Consistent with a reported link between reduced EGR1 expression and liver fibrosis, TCE increased hepatic type I collagen (COL1A1) mRNA and protein levels in livers of NOD.c3c4 mice. In contrast, TCE did not increase COL1A1 expression in NOD.ShiLtJ mice, which do not develop autoimmune cholangitis. These results suggest that in the context of concurrent autoimmune liver disease with a genetic basis, modification of hepatic gene expression by TCE may increase profibrogenic signaling in the liver. Moreover, these studies suggest that NOD.c3c4 mice may be a novel model to study gene-environment interactions critical for the development of autoimmune liver disease.


Sex differentiation of the male reproductive tract in mammals is driven, in part, by fetal androgen production. In utero, some phthalate esters (PEs) alter fetal Leydig cell differentiation, reducing the expression of several genes associated with steroid synthesis/transport, and consequently, lowering fetal androgen and Insl3 hormone levels. Simvastatin (SMV) is a cholesterol-lowering drug that directly inhibits HMG-CoA reductase. SMV may also disrupt steroid biosynthesis, but through a different mode of action (MOA) than the PEs. As cholesterol is a precursor of steroid hormone biosynthesis, we hypothesized that in utero exposure to SMV during the critical period of sex differentiation would lower fetal testicular testosterone (T) production without affecting genes involved in cholesterol and androgen synthesis and transport. Secondly, we hypothesized that a mixture of SMV and a PE, which may have different MOAs, would reduce testosterone levels in an additive manner. Pregnant Sprague Dawley rats were dosed orally with SMV, dipentyl phthalate (DPeP), or SMV plus DPeP from gestational days 14-18, and fetuses were evaluated on GD18. On GD18, SMV lowered fetal T production and serum triglycerides, low density lipoprotein, high density lipoprotein, and total cholesterol levels, and downregulated two genes in the fetal testis that were different from those altered by PEs. When SMV and DPeP were administered as a mixture, fetal T production was significantly reduced in an additive manner, thus demonstrating that a mixture of chemicals can induce additive effects on fetal T production even though they display different MOAs.


Bile acids (BAs) are known to regulate their own homeostasis, but the potency of individual bile acids is not known. This study examined the effects of cholic acid (CA), chenodeoxycholic acid (CDCA), deoxycholic acid (DCA), lithocholic acid (LCA) and ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) on expression of BA synthesis and transport genes in human primary hepatocyte cultures. Hepatocytes were treated with the individual BAs at 10, 30, and 100μM for 48 h, and RNA was extracted for real-time PCR analysis. For the classic pathway of BA synthesis, BAs except for UDCA markedly suppressed CYP7A1 (70–95%), the rate-limiting enzyme of bile acid synthesis, but only moderately (35%) down-regulated CYP8B1 at a high concentration of 100μM. BAs had minimal effects on mRNA of two enzymes of the alternative pathway of BA synthesis, namely CYP27A1 and CYP7B1. BAs increased the two major target genes of the farnesoid X receptor (FXR), namely the small heterodimer partner (SHP) by fourfold, and markedly induced fibroblast growth factor 19 (FGF19) over 100-fold. The BA uptake transporter Na+-taurocholate co-transporting polypeptide was unaffected, whereas the efflux transporter bile salt export pump was increased 15-fold and OSTα/β were increased 10–100-fold by BAs. The expression of the organic anion transporting polypeptide 1B3 (OATP1B3; sixfold), ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter G5 (ABCG5; sixfold), multidrug associated protein-2 (MRP2; twofold), and MRP3 (threefold) were also increased, albeit to lesser degrees. In general, CDCA was the most potent and effective BA in regulating these genes important for BA homeostasis, whereas DCA and CA were intermediate, LCA the least, and UDCA ineffective.


Human-induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hiPSC-CMs) are being used as an in vitro model system in cardiac biology and in drug discovery (e.g., cardiotoxicity testing). Qualification of these cells for use in mechanistic investigations will require detailed evaluations of cardiomyocyte signaling pathways and cellular responses. ErbB signaling and the ligand neuregulin play critical roles in survival and functional integrity of cardiac myocytes. As such, we sought to characterize the expression and activity of the ErbB family of receptors. Antibody microarray analysis performed on cell lysates derived from maturing hiPSC-CMs detected expression of ~570 signaling proteins. EGFR/ErbB1, HER2/ErbB2, and ErbB4, but not ErbB3 receptors, of the epidermal growth factor receptor family were confirmed by Western blot. Activation of ErbB signaling by neuregulin-1β (NRG, a natural ligand for ErbB4) and its modulation by trastuzumab (a monoclonal anti-ErbB2 antibody) and lapatinib (a small molecule ErbB2 tyrosine kinase inhibitor) were evaluated through assessing phosphorylation of AKT and Erk1/2, two major downstream kinases of ErbB signaling, using nanofluidic proteomic immunoassay. Downregulation of ErbB2 expression by siRNA silencing attenuated NRG-induced AKT and Erk1/2 phosphorylation. Activation of ErbB signaling with NRG, or inhibition with trastuzumab, alleviated or aggravated doxorubicin-induced cardiomyocyte damage, respectively, as assessed by a real-time cellular impedance analysis and ATP measurement. Collectively, these results support the expanded use of hiPSC-CMs to examine mechanisms of cardiotoxicity and support the value of using these cells in early assessments of cardiotoxicity or efficacy.