Exposure to Arsenite in CD-1 Mice during Juvenile and Adult Stages: Effects on Intestinal Microbiota and Gut-Associated Immune Status

mBio. 2018 Aug 14;9(4):e01418-18. doi: 10.1128/mBio.01418-18.


Intestinal microbiota composition and gut-associated immune response can contribute to the toxicity of arsenic. We investigated the potential toxicity of short-term arsenic exposure on gut microbiome composition, intestinal immune status, microbial arsenic resistance gene, and arsenic metabolic profiles in adult and developmental stages of CD-1 mice. The potential toxicity of arsenite [As(III)] was determined for two life stages: (i) adult animals at 24 or 48 h after single gavage (0.05 mg/kg body weight [b.w.] [low dose], 0.1 mg/kg b.w. [medium dose], and 0.2 mg/kg b.w. [high dose]) and repeated exposure at 1 mg/liter for 8 days and (ii) postnatal day 10 (PND10) and PND21 after single gavage (0.05 mg/kg b.w.). Dose- and time-dependent responses in bacterial recovery/microbial composition were observed in adults after a single gavage. Repeated exposure caused a transient decrease in the recovery of intestinal bacteria, a shift in the bacterial population with abundance of arsenic resistance genes, and evidence for host metabolism of arsenite into less-reactive trivalent methylated species. Arsenic exposure in adult animals induced high levels of CC chemokines and of proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokine secretion in intestine. Arsenic exposure at PND21 resulted in the development of distinct bacterial populations. Results of this study highlight significant changes in the intestinal microbiome and gut-associated immune status during a single or repeated exposure to arsenic in juvenile and adult animals. The data warrant investigation of the long-term effects of oral arsenic exposure on the microbiome and of immune system development and responses.IMPORTANCE Transformation of organic arsenic to toxic inorganic arsenic (iAs) is likely carried out by intestinal bacteria, and iAs may alter the viability of certain microbial populations. This study addressed the impact of arsenic exposure on intestinal microbiota diversity and host gut-associated immune mediators during early development or adulthood using scenarios of acute or repeated doses. During acute arsenic exposure, animals developed defense functions characterized by higher abundances of bacteria that are involved in arsenic resistance or detoxification mechanisms. Arsenite had a negative effect on the abundance of bacterial species that are involved in the conversion of protein to butyrate, which is an alternative energy source in the intestine. The intestinal mucosal immune cytokine profile reflected a mechanism of protection from arsenic toxicity.

Keywords: arsenic; arsenic resistance genes; arsenic speciation; developmental toxicity; immune response; intestinal microbiome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Arsenites / toxicity*
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / drug effects
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology*
  • Metabolome
  • Mice
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics


  • Arsenites
  • Cytokines
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • arsenite