The mechanisms by which environmental toxicants alter developmental processes predisposing individuals to adult onset chronic disease are not well-understood. Transplacental arsenic exposure promotes atherogenesis in apolipoprotein E-knockout (ApoE-/-) mice. Because the liver plays a central role in atherosclerosis, diabetes and metabolic syndrome, we hypothesized that accelerated atherosclerosis may be linked to altered hepatic development. This hypothesis was tested in ApoE-/- mice exposed to 49 ppm arsenic in utero from gestational day (GD) 8 to term. GD18 hepatic arsenic was 1.2 μg/g in dams and 350 ng/g in fetuses. The hepatic transcriptome was evaluated by microarray analysis to assess mRNA and microRNA abundance in control and exposed pups at postnatal day (PND) 1 and PND70. Arsenic exposure altered postnatal developmental trajectory of mRNA and microRNA profiles. We identified an arsenic exposure related 51-gene signature at PND1 and PND70 with several hubs of interaction (Hspa8, IgM and Hnf4a). Gene ontology (GO) annotation analyses indicated that pathways for gluconeogenesis and glycolysis were suppressed in exposed pups at PND1, and pathways for protein export, ribosome, antigen processing and presentation, and complement and coagulation cascades were induced by PND70. Promoter analysis of differentially-expressed transcripts identified enriched transcription factor binding sites and clustering to common regulatory sites. SREBP1 binding sites were identified in about 16% of PND70 differentially-expressed genes. Western blot analysis confirmed changes in the liver at PND70 that included increases of heat shock protein 70 (Hspa8) and active SREBP1. Plasma AST and ALT levels were increased at PND70. These results suggest that transplacental arsenic exposure alters developmental programming in fetal liver, leading to an enduring stress and proinflammatory response postnatally that may contribute to early onset of atherosclerosis. Genes containing SREBP1 binding sites also suggest pathways for diabetes mellitus and rheumatoid arthritis, both diseases that contribute to increased cardiovascular disease in humans.
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