Low Dose of Nickel and Benzo [a] Anthracene in Rat-Diet, Induce Apoptosis, Fibrosis, and Initiate Carcinogenesis in Liver via NF-Ƙβ Pathway

Biol Trace Elem Res. 2024 Apr 24. doi: 10.1007/s12011-024-04177-6. Online ahead of print.


Environmental contaminants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) and heavy metals are major contaminants of food such as fish thus serving as source of exposure to human. This study was designed to evaluate the carcinogenic risk and other risks associated with long-term consumption of environmentally relevant dose of nickel and benzo [a] anthracene in rats. Thirty-six (36) male rats weighing between 80 and 100 g were assigned into 6 groups of 6 animals each; normal, nickel-, and benzo [a] anthracene-exposed groups for 12 and 24 weeks, respectively. Micronucleus and comet analyses were done in the blood, liver, and bone marrow. Liver function, redox, and inflammatory markers (AST, ALT, GGT, SOD, GSH, MDA, protein carbonyl, protein thiol, total protein, IL-10, 1L-1β, TNF-α, TGF-β NF-Ƙβ, and 8-oxodeoxyguansine) were analysed by standard methods. Immuno-histochemical quantification of Bax, Bcl2, and Erk 1/2 as well as mRNA expression of cyclin D1 was done in liver. From the results, weight gain was observed in varying degrees throughout the exposure period. The polychromatic erythrocytes/normochromatic erythrocytes ratio > 0.2 indicates no cytotoxic effects on the bone marrow. Percentage-MnPCE in blood significantly (p < 0.05) increased throughout exposure duration. Percentage tail DNA in blood was significantly (< 0.05) increased at weeks 20 and 24 in the exposed groups and in liver at weeks 12 (16.22 ± 0.47) and 24 (17.00 ± 0.36) of nickel-exposed rats. The aspartate amino transferase (AST):alanine amino transferase (ALT) ratio indicated fatty liver disease in the benzo [a] anthracene (0.90) and acute liver injury in the nickel (> 10 times greater than the upper limits of the reference group) exposed groups during the first 12 weeks. Observation from the histological and cytological data of the liver revealed the presence of inflammation, fibrosis, and high nuclear/cytoplasmic ratio, respectively, in the nickel and benzo [a] anthracene groups. Only benzo [a] anthracene induced liver oxidative stress with significant (p < 0.05) decrease in SOD (0.64 ± 0.02) activity and increase in protein carbonyl (7.60 ± 0.80 × 10-5) and MDA (57.10 ± 6.64) concentration after 24 weeks. Benzo [a] anthracene up-regulated the cyclin D1 expression and significantly (p < 0.05) increased the levels of the cytokines. Nickel and benzo [a] anthracene significantly (p < 0.05) increased the Bax (183.45 ± 6.50 and 199.76 ± 10.04) and Erk 1/2 (108.25 ± 6.41 and 136.74 ± 4.22) levels when compared with the control (37.43 ± 22.22 and 60.37 ± 17.86), respectively. Overall result showed that the toxic effects of nickel and benzo [a] anthracene might involve fibrosis, cirrhosis, apoptosis, and inflammation of the liver. As clearly demonstrated in this study, benzo [a] anthracene after the 24 weeks of exposure stimulates carcinogenic process by suppressing the liver antioxidant capacity, altering apoptotic, cell proliferation, and differentiation pathways.

Keywords: Anaemia; Benzo [a] anthracene; Cancer; Genotoxicity; Liver; Nickel.