Polycomb (PcG) proteins, BMI1 and SUZ12, regulate arsenic-induced cell transformation

HONGGYUM KIM, Dong Joon Kim, Shengqing Li, Kun Y Lee, Xiang Li, Ann M. Bode, Zigang Dong

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33 Scopus citations


Inorganic arsenic is a well-documented human carcinogen associated with cancers of the skin, lung, liver, and bladder. However, the underlying mechanisms explaining the tumorigenic role of arsenic are not well understood. The present study explored a potential mechanism of cell transformation induced by arsenic exposure. Exposure to a low dose (0.5 -M) of arsenic trioxide (As2O3) caused transformation of BALB/c 3T3 cells. In addition, in a xenograft mouse model, tumor growth of the arse-nic-induced transformed cells was dramatically increased. In arsenic-induced transformed cells, polycomb group (PcG) proteins, including BMI1 and SUZ12, were activated resulting in enhanced histone H3K27 tri-methylation levels. On the other hand, tumor suppressor p16INK4a and p19ARF mRNA and protein expression were dramatically suppressed. Introduction of small hairpin (sh) RNA-BMI1 or -SUZ12 into BALB/c 3T3 cells resulted in suppression of arsenic-induced transformation. Histone H3K27 tri-methylation returned to normal in BMI1- or SUZ12-knockdown BALB/c 3T3 cells compared with BMI1- or SUZ12-wildtype cells after arsenic exposure. As a consequence, the expression of p16INK4a and p19ARF was recovered in arsenictreated BMI1- or SUZ12-knockdown cells. Thus, arsenic-induced cell transformation was blocked by inhibition of PcG function. Taken together, these results strongly suggest that the polycomb proteins, BMI1 and SUZ12 are required for cell transformation induced by organic arsenic exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31920-31928
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number38
StatePublished - Sep 14 2012


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