Arsenic-induced HER2 promotes proliferation, migration and angiogenesis of bladder epithelial cells via activation of multiple signaling pathways in vitro and in vivo

Bladder Cancer

Sci Total Environ. 2020 Aug 25;753:141962. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.141962. Online ahead of print.


Arsenic (As) is a known human carcinogen with a hitherto unknown mechanism of action. Dimethylarsinic acid (DMAV) is a methylated metabolite of arsenicals found in most mammals, and long-term exposure to DMAV can lead to bladder cancer in rats. Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) is an oncogenic factor that is overexpressed in bladder cancer, but its role in the initiation and progression of As-induced bladder cancer has not been elucidated. We found that HER2 was up-regulated in human uroepithelial cells treated with arsenite as well as in the bladder tissues of DMAV-exposed rats. HER2 overexpression correlated to increased cell proliferation, epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), migration and angiogenesis in vitro. The anti-HER2 monoclonal antibody trastuzumab significantly decreased serum vascular endothelial-derived growth factor (VEGF) levels and that of proliferation-related proteins in the bladder tissues of DMAV-exposed rats. Furthermore, inhibition of HER2, as well as that of the MAPK, AKT and STAT3 pathways, attenuated arsenite-induced proliferation, migration and angiogenesis of human uroepithelial cells, and increased apoptosis rates in vitro. These findings indicate that HER2 mediates the oncogenic effects of As on bladder epithelial cells by activating the MAPK, PI3K/AKT and Src/STAT3 signaling pathways, and is therefore a promising biomarker.