Open Access Research article

Mathematical model of uptake and metabolism of arsenic(III) in human hepatocytes - Incorporation of cellular antioxidant response and threshold-dependent behavior

Spyros K Stamatelos12, Christopher J Brinkerhoff1, Sastry S Isukapalli1 and Panos G Georgopoulos1*

Author Affiliations

1 Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute (EOHSI) a joint institute of UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Rutgers University 170 Frelinghuysen Rd, Piscataway, NJ 08854 USA

2 Department of Biomedical Engineering, Rutgers University 599 Taylor Road, Piscataway, NJ 08854 USA

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BMC Systems Biology 2011, 5:16  doi:10.1186/1752-0509-5-16

Published: 25 January 2011

Abstract

Background

Arsenic is an environmental pollutant, potent human toxicant, and oxidative stress agent with a multiplicity of health effects associated with both acute and chronic exposures. A semi-mechanistic cellular-level toxicokinetic (TK) model was developed in order to describe the uptake, biotransformation and clearance of arsenical species in human hepatocytes. Notable features of this model are the incorporation of arsenic-glutathione complex formation and a "switch-like" formulation to describe the antioxidant response of hepatocytes to arsenic exposure.

Results

The cellular-level TK model applies mass action kinetics in order to predict the concentrations of trivalent and pentavalent arsenicals in hepatocytes. The model simulates uptake of arsenite (iAsIII) via aquaporin isozymes 9 (AQP9s), glutathione (GSH) conjugation, methylation by arsenic methyltransferase (AS3MT), efflux through multidrug resistant proteins (MRPs) and the induced antioxidant response via thioredoxin reductase (TR) activity. The model was parameterized by optimization of model estimates for arsenite (iAsIII), monomethylated (MMA) and dimethylated (DMA) arsenicals concentrations with time-course experimental data in human hepatocytes for a time span of 48 hours, and dose-response data at 24 hours for a range of arsenite concentrations from 0.1 to 10 μM. Global sensitivity analysis of the model showed that at low doses the transport parameters had a dominant role, whereas at higher doses the biotransformation parameters were the most significant. A parametric comparison of the TK model with an analogous model developed for rat hepatocytes from the literature demonstrated that the biotransformation of arsenite (e.g. GSH conjugation) has a large role in explaining the variation in methylation between rats and humans.

Conclusions

The cellular-level TK model captures the temporal modes of arsenical accumulation in human hepatocytes. It highlighted the key biological processes that influence arsenic metabolism by explicitly modelling the metabolic network of GSH-adducts formation. The parametric comparison with the TK model developed for rats suggests that the variability in GSH conjugation could have an important role in inter-species variability of arsenical methylation. The TK model can be incorporated into larger-scale physiologically based toxicokinetic (PBTK) models of arsenic for improving the estimates of PBTK model parameters.