Chronic exposure to inorganic arsenic (iAs) found in the environment is one of the most significant and widespread environmental health risks in the U.S. and throughout the world. It is associated with a broad range of health effects from cancer to diabetes as well as reproductive and developmental anomalies. This diversity of diseases can also result from disruption of metabolic and other cellular processes regulated by steroid hormone receptors via aberrant transcriptional regulation. Significantly, exposure to iAs inhibits steroid hormone-mediated gene activation. iAs exposure is associated with disease, but is also used therapeutically to treat specific cancers complicating an understanding of iAs action. Transcriptional activation by steroid hormone receptors is accompanied by changes in histone and non-histone protein post-translational modification (PTM) that result from the enzymatic activity of coactivator and corepressor proteins such as GRIP1 and CARM1. This study addresses how iAs represses steroid receptor-regulated gene transcription. PTMs on histones H3 and H4 at the glucocorticoid receptor (GR)-activated mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV) promoter were identified by chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis following exposure to steroid hormone+/-iAs. Histone H3K18 and H3R17 amino acid residues had significantly different patterns of PTMs after treatment with iAs. Promoter interaction of the coactivator CARM1 was disrupted, but the interaction of GRIP1, a p160 coactivator through which CARM1 interacts with a promoter, was intact. Over-expression of CARM1 was able to fully restore and GRIP1 partially restored iAs-repressed transcription indicating that these coactivators are functionally associated with iAs-mediated transcriptional repression. Both are essential for robust transcription at steroid hormone regulated genes and both are associated with disease when inappropriately expressed. We postulate that iAs effects on CARM1 and GRIP1 may underlie some of its therapeutic effects and as well be associated with its toxic effects
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