Protein Boots Toxic Arsenic From Cells | September 14, 2009 Issue - Vol. 87 Issue 37 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 87 Issue 37 | p. 29 | Concentrates
Issue Date: September 14, 2009

Protein Boots Toxic Arsenic From Cells

Scientists identify a transport protein that can kick arsenic compounds out of liver cells, suggesting a novel therapeutic application
Department: Science & Technology
News Channels: Environmental SCENE
Keywords: arsenic compounds, drinking water, liver, poison

Arsenic compounds percolating out of the ground into drinking water are a global health problem, poisoning people from Bangladesh to the U.S. Yet mammals, including humans and mice, have evolved one level of protection against arsenic in the form of a transport protein called aquaglyceroporin-9 (AQP-9) that can kick the poison out of liver cells, where it wreaks the most damage. To explore this defense mechanism, a group of researchers led by Jennifer M. Carbrey of Duke University, Peter Agre of Johns Hopkins University, and Rita Mukhopadhyay of Florida International University exposed genetically modified mice lacking AQP-9 to NaAsO2 (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0908108106). They found that the mice couldn’t clear the arsenic well and that it accumulated in the liver, heart, and other organs at levels well above those of normal mice. Although the researchers advocate for clean drinking water as the best solution to the arsenic contamination problem, they suggest there may be a way to activate AQP-9 in humans to help reduce arsenic toxicity stemming from drinking water or from arsenic-based drugs.

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ISSN 0009-2347
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