Background: Chronic exposure to drinking water arsenic is a significant worldwide environmental health concern. Exposure to As is associated with an increased risk of lung disease, which may make it a unique toxicant, because lung toxicity is usually associated with inhalation rather than ingestion.
Objectives: The goal of this study was to examine mRNA and protein expression changes in the lungs of mice exposed chronically to environmentally relevant concentrations of As in the food or drinking water, specifically examining the hypothesis that As may preferentially affect gene and protein expression related to immune function as part of its mechanism of toxicant action.
Methods: C57BL/6J mice fed a casein-based AIN-76A defined diet were exposed to 10 or 100 ppb As in drinking water or food for 5-6 weeks.
Results: Whole genome transcriptome profiling of animal lungs revealed significant alterations in the expression of many genes with functions in cell adhesion and migration, channels, receptors, differentiation and proliferation, and, most strikingly, aspects of the innate immune response. Confirmation of mRNA and protein expression changes in key genes of this response revealed that genes for interleukin 1beta, interleukin 1 receptor, a number of toll-like receptors, and several cytokines and cytokine receptors were significantly altered in the lungs of As-exposed mice.
Conclusions: These findings indicate that chronic low-dose As exposure at the current U.S. drinking-water standard can elicit effects on the regulation of innate immunity, which may contribute to altered disease risk, particularly in lung.
Keywords: arsenic; inflammation; innate immune system; lung; migration.