Arsenic exposure has been implicated to alter DNA methylation process in vitro and in vivo, but it remains obscure whether it disrupts DNA demethylation process, which is pivotal for epigenetic regulation. The objective of this descriptive study was to investigate the relationship between arsenic exposure and 5-methylcytosine (5mC), 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) alterations in various organs. In this study, we exposed male Sprague-Dawley rats to sodium arsenite (0.5, 2 or 10. ppm) via drinking water for 8 weeks. Spleen accumulated 2- to 3-fold higher arsenic levels than liver and heart. Lower arsenic levels were observed in the kidney, pancreas and lung. No significant arsenic-induced global 5mC alterations were observed in the majority of investigated organs. However, arsenic induced organ-specific alterations of 5hmC and/or 5hmC/5mC in some investigated organs, i.e. lung, heart, kidney, pancreas and spleen. Our observations suggest that 5hmC is a more sensitive biomarker of arsenic-induced impacts on epigenetic processes than 5mC. Moreover, demethylation via hydroxylation of 5mC appears to play a central role in the toxic mechanism of arsenic.
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