A possible mechanism for combined arsenic and fluoride induced cellular and DNA damage in mice

Metallomics. 2012 Jan;4(1):78-90. doi: 10.1039/c1mt00118c. Epub 2011 Oct 10.


Arsenic and fluoride are major contaminants of drinking water. Mechanisms of toxicity following individual exposure to arsenic or fluoride are well known. However, it is not explicit how combined exposure to arsenic and fluoride leads to cellular and/or DNA damage. The present study was planned to assess (i) oxidative stress during combined chronic exposure to arsenic and fluoride in drinking water, (ii) correlation of oxidative stress with cellular and DNA damage and (iii) mechanism of cellular damage using IR spectroscopy. Mice were exposed to arsenic and fluoride (50 ppm) either individually or in combination for 28 weeks. Arsenic or fluoride exposure individually led to a significant increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation and associated oxidative stress in blood, liver and brain. Individual exposure to the two toxicants showed significant depletion of blood glutathione (GSH) and glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) activity, and single-stranded DNA damage using a comet assay in lymphocytes. We also observed an increase in the activity of ATPase, thiobarbituric acid reactive substance (TBARS) and a decreased, reduced and oxidized glutathione (GSH : GSSG) ratio in the liver and brain. Antioxidant enzymes like superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase and glutathione peroxidase (GPx) were decreased and increased in liver and brain respectively. The changes were more pronounced in liver compared to brain suggesting liver to be more susceptible to the toxic effects of arsenic and fluoride. Interestingly, combined exposure to arsenic and fluoride resulted in less pronounced toxic effects compared to their individual effects based on biochemical variables, IR spectra, DNA damage (TUNEL and comet assays) and histopathological observations. IR spectra suggested that arsenic or fluoride perturbs the strength of protein and amide groups; however, the shifts in peaks were not pronounced during combined exposure. These results thus highlight the role of arsenic- or fluoride-induced oxidative stress, DNA damage and protein interaction as the major determinants of toxicity, along with the differential toxic effects during arsenic-fluoride interaction during co-exposure. The study further corroborates our earlier observations that at the higher concentration co-exposures to these toxicants do not elicit synergistic toxicity.

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphatases / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Arsenic / toxicity*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology
  • Catalase / metabolism
  • DNA Damage / drug effects*
  • Fluorides / toxicity*
  • Glutathione Peroxidase / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • Random Allocation
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Superoxide Dismutase / metabolism
  • Thiobarbituric Acid Reactive Substances / metabolism
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Thiobarbituric Acid Reactive Substances
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Catalase
  • Glutathione Peroxidase
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • Adenosine Triphosphatases
  • Arsenic
  • Fluorides