Mechanism of arsenic-induced neurotoxicity may be explained through cleavage of p35 to p25 by calpain

Toxicol In Vitro. 2008 Apr;22(3):682-7. doi: 10.1016/j.tiv.2007.12.010. Epub 2007 Dec 31.


In recent studies we have demonstrated that arsenic (As) metabolites change the composition of neuronal cytoskeletal proteins in vivo and in vitro. To further examine the mechanism of arsenic-induced neurotoxicity with various arsenate metabolites (iAsV, MMAV and DMAV) and arsenite metabolites (iAsIII, MMAIII and DMAIII), we investigated the role of the proteolytic enzyme calpain and its involvement in the cleavage of p35 protein to p25, and also mRNA expression levels of calpain, cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (cdk5) and glycogen synthase kinase 3 beta (gsk3ss). A HeLa cell line transfected with a p35 construct (HeLa-p35) was used as a model, since all other proteins such as calpain, CDK5 and GSK3beta are already present in HeLa cells as they are in neuronal cells. HeLa-p35 cells were incubated with various As metabolites and concentrations of 0, 10 and 30 microM for duration of 4 h. Subsequently the cells were either lysed to study their relative quantification levels of these genes or to be examined on their p35-protein expression. P35-RNA expression levels were significantly (p<0.01) increased by arsenite metabolites, while p35 protein was cleaved to p25 (and p10) after incubation with these metabolites. The cleavage of p35 is caused by calcium (Ca2+) induced activation of calpain. Inhibition of calpain activity by calpeptin prevents cleavage of p35 to p25. These results suggest that cleavage of p35 to p25 by calpain, probably As-induced Ca2+-influx, may explain the mechanism by which arsenic induces its neurotoxic effects.

MeSH terms

  • Arsenic / toxicity*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Calcium / pharmacology
  • Calpain / genetics
  • Calpain / metabolism
  • Calpain / toxicity*
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 5 / genetics
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 5 / metabolism
  • Cysteine Proteinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • DNA Primers
  • Dipeptides / pharmacology
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Glyceraldehyde-3-Phosphate Dehydrogenases / genetics
  • Glyceraldehyde-3-Phosphate Dehydrogenases / metabolism
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / drug effects*
  • Neurotoxicity Syndromes / genetics*
  • Neurotoxicity Syndromes / metabolism*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Transfection


  • Cysteine Proteinase Inhibitors
  • DNA Primers
  • Dipeptides
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • neuronal Cdk5 activator (p25-p35)
  • calpeptin
  • Glyceraldehyde-3-Phosphate Dehydrogenases
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 5
  • Calpain
  • Arsenic
  • Calcium