Mitogenic signal transduction caused by monomethylarsonous acid in human bladder cells: Role in arsenic-induced carcinogenesis

Kylee E. Eblin, Tiffany Bredfeldt, Sarah Buffington, A. Jay Gandolfi

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58 Scopus citations


Previous studies have shown that human bladder cells (UROtsa), a target of arsenic-induced cancer, can biotransform arsenite to monomethylarsonous acid (MMA(III)), which is more cytotoxic and capable of transforming the UROtsa cells following long-term, low-level exposure. Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) causes hyperplasia in bladder cells and is considered a key biomarker in bladder cancer. To investigate the role of mitogenic pathway stimulation in MMA(III)-induced transformation, UROtsa cells were treated with 50nM MMA(III) for 12, 24, or 52 weeks and analyzed by Western blot for COX-2 expression. Elevations in COX-2 expression were noted following chronic MMA(III) exposure, and this induction increased with duration of exposure, suggesting that COX-2 or the signal transduction pathways responsible for COX-2 protein expression may play a role in MMA(III)-induced transformation. Acute exposure studies found MMA(III) treatment (10, 50, and 100nM, 4 h) induced COX-2 in UROtsa cells with the lowest doses (10 and 50nM) causing the strongest induction. Using pharmacological inhibitors of various pathways, it was shown that epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK-1/-2), phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K), and src were important in the induction of COX-2 by MMA(III). ERK-2 phosphorylation was verified by Western blot analysis with a peak at 15 min, and c-jun was translocated to the nucleus following 50nM MMA(III) treatment. To determine MMA(III) targets, receptors of the erythroblastosis oncogene family (ErbB) family were further investigated. Chronic MMA(III) exposure led to upregulation of the EGFR or ErbB1. Short-term MMA(III) treatment caused the phosphorylation of ErbB2 in its autophosphorylation site. To verify the importance of these signaling pathways to the growth of the MMA(III)-transformed UROtsa cells in soft agar, various inhibitors were used to block pathways and monitor cells growth. Pathways of importance in anchorage-independent growth of UROtsa cells chronically exposed to MMA(III) are src, PI3K, and COX-1 and -2. As COX-2 is an important mediator that contributes to carcinogenesis via promotion of cell proliferation, inhibition of cell death, induction of angiogenesis, and facilitation of invasion, and it is highly upregulated both acutely and chronically in the MMA(III)-transformed cells, it is likely that activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway and increased COX-2 expression is a plausible mechanism for MMA(III) bladder carcinogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)321-330
Number of pages10
JournalToxicological Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2007


  • COX-2
  • Monomethylarsonous acid
  • UROtsa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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