Environmental exposure to arsenic is a major public health challenge worldwide. In detailing the hallmark signs of chronic arsenic exposure, previous studies have shown that epigenetic and immune dysfunction are associated with arsenic-induced skin lesions; however, knowledge regarding interactions between the mechanisms listed above is limited. In this study, a total of 106 skin samples were collected over the past 20 years. Based on the presence or absence of high arsenic exposure, the participants were divided into arsenic exposure (72) and reference (34) groups. Additionally, the arsenic exposure group was further divided into the non-cancer group (31, including skin hyperpigmentation and hyperkeratosis) and the skin cancer group (41, including Bowen’s disease, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma) according to a skin histopathological examination. First, the associations among miR-155, NF-AT1 with immunological dysfunction and arsenic-induced skin lesions and carcinogenesis were confirmed using these skin samples. In the arsenic-exposed group, miR-155-5p, keratin 1(Krt1), keratin 10 (Krt10), and keratin 6c (Krt6c) were significantly increased in the skin (p < 0.05), while NF-AT1, interleukin-2 (IL-2), and interferon-γ (IFN-γ) were significantly decreased (p < 0.05). Clear correlations were observed among these factors (p < 0.05). In immortalized human keratinocytes, silencing and overexpression of NF-AT1 could alter the expression and secretion of immunological dysfunction indicators (IL-2 and IFN-γ) that are induced by arsenic exposure (p < 0.05); however, miR-155-5p levels did not change significantly (p > 0.05). The miR-155-5p mimic and inhibitor could regulate the NF-AT1-mediated immunological dysfunction caused by arsenic (p < 0.05). Our study provides some limited evidence that miR-155-5p regulates the NF-AT1-mediated immunological dysfunction that is involved in the pathogenesis and carcinogenesis of arsenic. The second major finding was that Krt1 and Krt10 are markers of hyperkeratosis caused by arsenic, and Krt6c is a potential biomarker that can reflect arsenic carcinogenesis.
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