Arsenic directs stem cell fate by imparting notch signaling into the extracellular matrix niche

Teresa Anguiano, Amrita Sahu, Baoli Qian, Wan Yee Tang, Fabrisia Ambrosio, Aaron Barchowsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Compromise of skeletal muscle metabolismand composition may underlie the etiology of cardiovascular and metabolic disease risk from environmental arsenic exposures.We reported that arsenic impairs muscle maintenance and regeneration by inducing maladaptive mitochondrial phenotypes in muscle stem cells (MuSC), connective tissue fibroblasts (CTF), and myofibers. We also found that arsenic imparts a dysfunctional memory in the extracellular matrix (ECM) that disrupts the MuSC niche and is sufficient to favor the expansion and differentiation of fibrogenic MuSC subpopulations. To investigate the signaling mechanisms involved in imparting a dysfunctional ECM, we isolated skeletal muscle tissue and CTF from mice exposed to 0 or 100 lg/l arsenic in their drinking water for 5 weeks. ECM elaborated by arsenic-exposed CTF decreased myogenesis and increased fibrogenic/adipogenic MuSC subpopulations and differentiation. However, treating arsenic-exposed mice with SS-31, a mitochondrially targeted peptide that repairs the respiratory chain, reversed the arsenic-promoted CTF phenotype to one that elaborated an ECM supporting normal myogenic differentiation. SS-31 treatment also reversed arsenic-induced Notch1 expression, resulting in an improved muscle regeneration after injury.We found that persistent arsenic-induced CTF Notch1 expression caused the elaboration of dysfunctional ECM with increased expression of the Notch ligand DLL4. This DLL4 in the ECM was responsible for misdirecting MuSC myogenic differentiation. These data indicate that arsenic impairs muscle maintenance and regenerative capacity by targeting CTF mitochondria and mitochondrially directed expression of dysfunctional regulators in the stem cell niche. Therapies that restore muscle cell mitochondria may effectively treat arsenic-induced skeletal muscle dysfunction and compositional decline.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)494-505
Number of pages12
JournalToxicological Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Adipogenesis
  • Arsenic
  • Environmental toxicology
  • Extracellular matrix myogenesis
  • Fibrogenesis
  • Mitochondria
  • Notch
  • SS-31
  • Signal transduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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