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Open Access Research article

Genetic integrity of the human Y chromosome exposed to groundwater arsenic

Safdar Ali and Sher Ali*

Author Affiliations

Molecular Genetics Laboratory, National Institute of Immunology, Aruna Asaf Ali Marg, New Delhi-110067, India

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BMC Medical Genomics 2010, 3:35  doi:10.1186/1755-8794-3-35

Published: 6 August 2010

Abstract

Background

Arsenic is a known human carcinogen reported to cause chromosomal deletions and genetic anomalies in cultured cells. The vast human population inhabiting the Ganges delta in West Bengal, India and Bangladesh is exposed to critical levels of arsenic present in the groundwater. The genetic and physiological mechanism of arsenic toxicity in the human body is yet to be fully established. In addition, lack of animal models has made work on this line even more challenging.

Methods

Human male blood samples were collected with their informed consent from 5 districts in West Bengal having groundwater arsenic level more than 50 μg/L. Isolation of genomic DNA and preparation of metaphase chromosomes was done using standard protocols. End point PCR was performed for established sequence tagged sites to ascertain the status of recombination events. Single nucleotide variants of candidate genes and amplicons were carried out using appropriate restriction enzymes. The copy number of DYZ1 array per haploid genome was calculated using real time PCR and its chromosomal localization was done by fluorescence in-situ hybridization (FISH).

Results

We studied effects of arsenic exposure on the human Y chromosome in males from different areas of West Bengal focusing on known recombination events (P5-P1 proximal; P5-P1 distal; gr/gr; TSPY-TSPY, b1/b3 and b2/b3), single nucleotide variants (SNVs) of a few candidate Y-linked genes (DAZ, TTY4, BPY2, GOLGA2LY) and the amplicons of AZFc region. Also, possible chromosomal reorganization of DYZ1 repeat arrays was analyzed. Barring a few microdeletions, no major changes were detected in blood DNA samples. SNV analysis showed a difference in some alleles. Similarly, DYZ1 arrays signals detected by FISH were found to be affected in some males.

Conclusions

Our Y chromosome analysis suggests that the same is protected from the effects of arsenic by some unknown mechanisms maintaining its structural and functional integrities. Thus, arsenic effects on the human body seem to be different compared to that on the cultured cells.