Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Environmental Health Perspectives


Chronic human exposure to nonovertly toxic doses of arsenic is associated with an increased risk of cancer. Although its carcinogenic mechanism is still unknown, arsenic does not directly cause DNA damage or mutations and is therefore thought to act principally as a co-mutagen, co-carcinogen, and/or tumor promoter. Previous studies in our laboratory demonstrated that effects of low-dose arsenic (III) (arsenite) on expression of the hormone-regulated phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK) gene were strongly associated with the glucocorticoid receptor (GR)-mediated regulatory pathway. We therefore examined specifically the effects of arsenite on the biochemical function of GR in hormone-responsive H4IIE rat hepatoma cells. Completely noncytotoxic arsenite treatments (0.3-3.3 microM) significantly decreased dexamethasone-induced expression of transiently transfected luciferase constructs containing either an intact hormone-responsive promoter from the mammalian PEPCK gene or two tandem glucocorticoid response elements (GRE). Western blotting and confocal microscopy of a green fluorescent protein-tagged-GR fusion protein demonstrated that arsenite pretreatment did not block the normal dexamethasone-induced nuclear translocation of GR. These data indicate that nontoxic doses of arsenite can interact directly with GR complexes and selectively inhibit GR-mediated transcription, which is associated with altered nuclear function rather than a decrease in hormone-induced GR activation or nuclear translocation.