Affordable Access

Access to the full text

Long-term exposure of immortalized keratinocytes to arsenic induces EMT, impairs differentiation in organotypic skin models and mimics aspects of human skin derangements

  • Weinmuellner, R.1
  • Kryeziu, K.2
  • Zbiral, B.1
  • Tav, K.1
  • Schoenhacker-Alte, B.2
  • Groza, D.2
  • Wimmer, L.2
  • Schosserer, M.3
  • Nagelreiter, F.3
  • Rösinger, S.1
  • Mildner, M.4
  • Tschachler, E.4
  • Grusch, M.2
  • Grillari, J.1, 3
  • Heffeter, P.2
  • 1 BOKU - University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna, Christian Doppler Laboratory on Biotechnology of Skin Aging, Department of Biotechnology, Vienna, Austria , Vienna (Austria)
  • 2 Medical University of Vienna, Department of Medicine I, Institute of Cancer Research and Comprehensive Cancer Center Vienna, Borschkegasse 8a, Vienna, 1090, Austria , Vienna (Austria)
  • 3 BOKU - University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna, Department of Biotechnology, Muthgasse 18, Haus B, Vienna, 1190, Austria , Vienna (Austria)
  • 4 Medical University of Vienna, Department of Dermatology, Vienna, Austria , Vienna (Austria)
Published Article
Archives of Toxicology
Publication Date
Aug 03, 2017
DOI: 10.1007/s00204-017-2034-6
Springer Nature


Arsenic is one of the most important human carcinogens and environmental pollutants. However, the evaluation of the underlying carcinogenic mechanisms is challenging due to the lack of suitable in vivo and in vitro models, as distinct interspecies differences in arsenic metabolism exist. Thus, it is of high interest to develop new experimental models of arsenic-induced skin tumorigenesis in humans. Consequently, aim of this study was to establish an advanced 3D model for the investigation of arsenic-induced skin derangements, namely skin equivalents, built from immortalized human keratinocytes (NHEK/SVTERT3-5). In contrast to spontaneously immortalized HACAT cells, NHEK/SVTERT3-5 cells more closely resembled the differentiation pattern of primary keratinocytes. With regard to arsenic, our results showed that while our new cell model was widely unaffected by short-time treatment (72 h) with low, non-toxic doses of ATO (0.05–0.25 µM), chronic exposure (6 months) resulted in distinct changes of several cell characteristics. Thus, we observed an increase in the G2 fraction of the cell cycle accompanied by increased nucleus size and uneven tubulin distribution. Moreover, cells showed strong signs of de-differentiation and upregulation of several epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition markers. In line with these effects, chronic contact to arsenic resulted in impaired skin-forming capacities as well as localization of ki67-positive (proliferating) cells at the upper layers of the epidermis; a condition termed Bowen’s disease. Finally, chronically arsenic-exposed cells were characterized by an increased tumorigenicity in SCID mice. Taken together, our study presents a new model system for the investigation of mechanisms underlying the tumor-promoting effects of chronic arsenic exposure.

Report this publication


Seen <100 times