Role of microRNAs in senescence and its contribution to peripheral neuropathy in the arsenic exposed population of West Bengal, India

Environ Pollut. 2018 Feb;233:596-603. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2017.09.063. Epub 2017 Nov 5.


Arsenic induced senescence (AIS) has been identified in the population of West Bengal, India very recently. Also there is a high incidence of arsenic induced peripheral neuropathy (PN) throughout India. However, the epigenetic regulation of AIS and its contribution in arsenic induced PN remains unexplored. We recruited seventy two arsenic exposed and forty unexposed individuals from West Bengal to evaluate the role of senescence associated miRNAs (SA-miRs) in AIS and their involvement if any, in PN. The downstream molecules of the miRNA associated with the disease outcome, was also checked by immuoblotting. In vitro studies were conducted with HEK 293 cells and sodium arsenite exposure. Our results show that all the SA-miRs were upregulated in comparison to unexposed controls. miR-29a was the most significantly altered, highest expression being in the arsenic exposed group with PN, suggesting its association with the occurrence of PN. We looked for the expression of peripheral myelin protein 22 (PMP22), a specific target of miR-29a associated with myelination and found that both in vitro and in vivo results showed over-expression of the protein. Since this was quite contrary to miRNA regulation, we checked for intermediate players β-catenin and GSK-3β upon arsenic exposure which affects PMP22 expression. We found that β-catenin was upregulated in vitro and was also highest in the arsenic exposed group with PN while GSK-3β followed the reverse pattern. Our findings suggest that arsenic exposure alters the expression of SA-miRs and the mir-29a/beta catenin/PMP22 axis might be responsible for arsenic induced PN.

Keywords: Arsenic; Health effects; Neuropathy; Senescence; miRNA.

MeSH terms

  • Arsenic / analysis
  • Arsenic / toxicity*
  • Arsenic Poisoning / epidemiology
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / chemically induced
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / epidemiology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / genetics*
  • Up-Regulation
  • beta Catenin


  • CTNNB1 protein, human
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • MicroRNAs
  • beta Catenin
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3
  • Arsenic