Benzo[a]pyrene-Induced Changes in MicroRNA-mRNA Networks

Daneida Lizarraga, Stan Gaj, Karen J. Brauers, Leen Timmermans, Jos C. Keinjans, Joost H. M. van Delft*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Toxicological studies assessing the safety of compounds for humans frequently use in vitro systems to characterize toxic responses in combination with transcriptomic analyses. Thus far, changes have mostly been investigated at the mRNA level. Recently, microRNAs have attracted attention because they are powerful negative regulators of mRNA levels and, thus, may be responsible for the modulation of important mRNA networks implicated in toxicity. This study aimed to identify possible microRNA-mRNA networks as novel interactions on the gene expression level after a genotoxic insult. We used benzo[a]pyrene (BaP), a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, as a model genotoxic/carcinogenic compound. We analyzed time-dependent effects on mRNA and microRNA profiles in HepG2 cells, a widely used human liver cell line that expresses active p53 and is competent for the biotransformation of BaP. Changes in microRNA expression in response to BaP, in combination with multiple alterations of mRNA levels, were observed. Many of these altered mRNAs are targets of altered microRNAs. Using pathway analysis, we evaluated the relevance of such microRNA deregulations to genotoxicity. This revealed eight microRNAs that appear to participate in specific BaP-responsive pathways relevant to genotoxicity, such as apoptotic signaling, cell cycle arrest, DNA damage response, and DNA damage repair. Our results particularly highlight the potential of microRNA-29b, microRNA-26a-1*, and microRNA-122* as novel players in the BaP response. Therefore, this study demonstrates the added value of an integrated microRNA-mRNA approach for identifying molecular mechanisms induced by BaP in an in vitro human model.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)838-849
JournalChemical Research in Toxicology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2012

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