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Dartmouth researchers find that low doses of arsenic have broad impact on hormone activity

Dartmouth Medical School investigators are learning more about how low doses of arsenic, such as the levels found in drinking water in many areas of the United States, affect human physiology. In a paper published online on Dec. 2 in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology, the researchers report that three different steroid hormones all show similar responses to arsenic, suggesting a broader effect and a common mechanism of arsenic on how these hormones function.

"Since most of the health consequences of exposure to arsenic - various cancers, diabetes, heart and vascular disease, reproductive and developmental effects, etc. - involve these same steroid receptors, we think that disruption of their normal function could explain, in large part, how arsenic can influence so many disease risks," says Joshua Hamilton, one of the authors on this study and the director of the Center for Environmental Health Sciences at Dartmouth and Dartmouth's Superfund Basic Research Program on Toxic Metals.

Hamilton's laboratory had earlier found that arsenic disrupts the activity of the glucocorticoid receptor, and this follow up study considered the progesterone and mineralocorticoid receptors, which regulate a wide range of biological processes. This current work was done in collaboration with Jack Bodwell, the lead author on this paper and a research associate professor of physiology at Dartmouth Medical School.

Hamilton, Bodwell, and their team found that arsenic appears to suppress the ability of all three of these critical receptors to respond to their normal hormone signals. Chemicals that disrupt steroid hormone receptor signaling are called endocrine disruptors, and this study provides further evidence that arsenic, a metal, does not behave like other endocrine disruptors such as pesticides.

"Arsenic does not activate these receptors, as some endocrine disruptors do, by mimicking the natural hormone, nor does it block the ability
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Contact: Sue Knapp
sue.knapp@dartmouth.edu
603-646-3661
Dartmouth College
4-Dec-2006


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