Aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) is a major risk factor for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in humans. However, mice, a major animal model for the study of AFB1 carcinogenesis, are resistant, due to high constitutive expression, in the mouse liver, of glutathione S-transferase A3 subunit (mGSTA3) that is lacking in humans. Our objective was to establish that a mouse model for AFB1 toxicity could be used to study mechanisms of toxicity that are relevant for human disease, i.e., an mGSTA3 knockout (KO) mouse that responds to toxicants such as AFB1 in a manner similar to humans. Exons 3-6 of the mGSTA3 were replaced with a neomycin cassette by homologous recombination. Southern blotting, RT-PCR, Western blotting, and measurement of AFB1-N(7)-DNA adduct formation were used to evaluate the mGSTA3 KO mice. The KO mice have deletion of exons 3-6 of the mGSTA3 gene, as expected, as well as a lack of mGSTA3 expression at the mRNA and protein levels. Three hours after injection of 5 mg/kg AFB1, mGSTA3 KO mice have more than 100-fold more AFB1-N(7)-DNA adducts in their livers than do similarly treated wild-type (WT) mice. In addition, the mGSTA3 KO mice die of massive hepatic necrosis, at AFB1 doses that have minimal toxic effects in WT mice. We conclude that mGSTA3 KO mice are sensitive to the acute cytotoxic and genotoxic effects of AFB1, confirming the crucial role of GSTA3 subunit in protection of normal mice against AFB1 toxicity. We propose the mGSTA3 KO mouse as a useful model with which to study the interplay of risk factors leading to HCC development in humans, as well as for testing of additional possible functions of mGSTA3.
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