The mechanisms that underlie metal carcinogenesis are the subject of intense investigation; however, data from in vitro and in vivo studies are starting to piece together a story that implicates epigenetics as a key player. Data from our lab has shown that nickel compounds inhibit dioxygenase enzymes by displacing iron in the active site. Arsenic is hypothesized to inhibit these enzymes by diminishing ascorbate levels - an important co-factor for dioxygenases. Inhibition of histone demethylase dioxygenases can increase histone methylation levels, which also may affect gene expression. Recently, our lab conducted a series of investigations in human subjects exposed to high levels of nickel or arsenic compounds. Global levels of histone modifications in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from exposed subjects were compared to low environmentally exposed controls. Results showed that nickel increased H3K4me3 and decreased H3K9me2 globally. Arsenic increased H3K9me2 and decreased H3K9ac globally. Other histone modifications affected by arsenic were sex-dependent. Nickel affected the expression of 2756 genes in human PBMCs and many of the genes were involved in immune and carcinogenic pathways. This review will describe data from our lab that demonstrates for the first time that nickel and arsenic compounds affect global levels of histone modifications and gene expression in exposed human populations.
Brocato, J., & Costa, M. (2015). 10th NTES Conference: Nickel and arsenic compounds alter the epigenome of peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology, 31, 209–213. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtemb.2014.04.001