Inorganic arsenic exposure induces sex-disparate effects and exacerbates ischemia-reperfusion injury in the female heart

Ryne Veenema, Kevin M. Casin, Prithvi Sinha, Raihan Kabir, Nathan Mackowski, Nicole Taube, Djahida Bedja, Rui Chen, Ana Rule, Mark J. Kohr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Arsenic is a common contaminant in drinking water throughout the world, and recent studies support a link between inorganic arsenic (iAS) exposure and ischemic heart disease in men and women. Female hearts exhibit an estrogendependent reduction in susceptibility to myocardial ischemic injury compared with males, and as such, female hearts may be more susceptible to the endocrine-disrupting effects of iAS exposure. However, iAS exposure and susceptibility to ischemic heart injury have not been examined in mechanistic studies. Male and female mice (8 wk) were exposed to environmentally relevant concentrations of sodium arsenite (0, 10, 100, and 1,000 parts/billion) via drinking water for 4 wk. Pre- and postexposure echocardiography was performed, and postexposure plasma was collected for 17β-estradiol measurement. Hearts were excised and subjected to ischemia-reperfusion (I/R) injury via Langendorff perfusion. Exposure to 1,000 parts/billion iAS led to sex-disparate effects, such that I/R injury was exacerbated in female hearts but unexpectedly attenuated in males. Assessment of echocardiographic parameters revealed statistically significant structural remodeling in iAS-treated female hearts with no change in function; males showed no change. Plasma 17β-estradiol levels were not significantly altered by iAS in male or female mice versus nontreated controls. Although total eNOS protein levels did not change in whole heart homogenates from iAS-treated male or female mice, eNOS phosphorylation (Ser1177) was significantly elevated in iAS-treated male hearts. These results suggest that iAS exposure can induce sex-disparate effects and modulate susceptibility to ischemic heart injury by targeting distinct sex-dependent pathways. NEW & NOTEWORTHY This is the first mechanistic study examining iAS exposure on myocardial ischemia-reperfusion injury in male and female mice. Following iAS exposure, ischemia-reperfusion injury was exacerbated in female hearts but attenuated in males. iAS treatment induced statistically significant cardiac remodeling in females, with no change in males. iAS treatment also enhanced phosphorylated eNOS levels at Ser1177, but only in male hearts. These results suggest that iAS alters susceptibility to myocardial I/R injury through distinct sex-dependent pathways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H1053-H1064
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2019


  • Cardioprotection
  • Endothelial nitric oxide synthase
  • Environmental exposure
  • Estrogen
  • Sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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