Exposure to cadmium is associated with human pathologies and altered gene expression. The molecular mechanisms by which cadmium affects transcription remain unclear. It has been proposed that cadmium activates transcription by altering intracellular calcium concentration ([Ca2+]i) and disrupting calcium-mediated intracellular signaling processes. This hypothesis is based on several studies that may be technically problematic; including the use of BAPTA chelators, BAPTA-based fluorescent sensors, and cytotoxic concentrations of metal.
In the present report, the effects of cadmium on [Ca2+]i under non-cytotoxic and cytotoxic conditions was monitored using the protein-based calcium sensor yellow cameleon (YC3.60), which was stably expressed in HEK293 cells. In HEK293 constitutively expressing YC3.60, this calcium sensor was found to be insensitive to cadmium. Exposing HEK293::YC3.60 cells to non-cytotoxic cadmium concentrations was sufficient to induce transcription of cadmium-responsive genes but did not affect [Ca2+]i mobilization or increase steady-state mRNA levels of calcium-responsive genes. In contrast, exposure to cytotoxic concentrations of cadmium significantly reduced intracellular calcium stores and altered calcium-responsive gene expression.
These data indicate that at low levels, cadmium induces transcription independently of intracellular calcium mobilization. The results also support a model whereby cytotoxic levels of cadmium activate calcium-responsive transcription as a general response to metal-induced intracellular damage and not via a specific mechanism. Thus, the modulation of intracellular calcium may not be a primary mechanism by which cadmium regulates transcription.
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Date Published: 9-June-2011
Author(s): Tvermoes B., Bird G., Freedman J.