Toxicity of two classes of arsenolipids and their water-soluble metabolites in human differentiated neurons

Arch Toxicol. 2017 Sep;91(9):3121-3134. doi: 10.1007/s00204-017-1933-x. Epub 2017 Feb 8.


Arsenolipids are lipid-soluble organoarsenic compounds, mainly occurring in marine organisms, with arsenic-containing hydrocarbons (AsHCs) and arsenic-containing fatty acids (AsFAs) representing two major subgroups. Recently, toxicity studies of several arsenolipids showed a high cytotoxic potential of those arsenolipids in human liver and bladder cells. Furthermore, feeding studies with Drosophila melanogaster indicated an accumulation of arsenolipids in the fruit fly's brain. In this study, the neurotoxic potential of three AsHCs, two AsFAs and three metabolites (dimethylarsinic acid, thio/oxo-dimethylarsenopropanoic acid) was investigated in comparison to the toxic reference arsenite (iAsIII) in fully differentiated human brain cells (LUHMES cells). Thereby, in the case of AsHCs both the cell number and cell viability were reduced in a low micromolar concentration range comparable to iAsIII, while AsFAs and the applied metabolites were less toxic. Mechanistic studies revealed that AsHCs reduced the mitochondrial membrane potential, whereas neither iAsIII nor AsFAs had an impact. Furthermore, neurotoxic mechanisms were investigated by examining the neuronal network. Here, AsHCs massively disturbed the neuronal network and induced apoptotic effects, while iAsIII and AsFAs showed comparatively lesser effects. Taking into account the substantial in vitro neurotoxic potential of the AsHCs and the fact that they could transfer across the physiological barriers of the brain, a neurotoxic potential in vivo for the AsHCs cannot be excluded and needs to be urgently characterized.

Keywords: Arsenic-containing fatty acids; Arsenic-containing hydrocarbons; Arsenolipids; Cytotoxicity; Neurons; Neurotoxicity.

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Arsenic Poisoning*
  • Arsenicals*
  • Brain / cytology
  • Cacodylic Acid / toxicity
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Humans
  • Membrane Potential, Mitochondrial / drug effects
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurotoxicity Syndromes / pathology
  • Propionates / toxicity*
  • Toxicity Tests / methods


  • Arsenicals
  • Propionates
  • Cacodylic Acid