Lead induces the expression of endoplasmic reticulum chaperones GRP78 and GRP94 in vascular endothelial cells via the JNK-AP-1 pathway

Yasuhiro Shinkai, Chika Yamamoto, Toshiyuki Kaji
Toxicological Sciences: An Official Journal of the Society of Toxicology 2010, 114 (2): 378-86
Lead, a ubiquitous heavy metal, is an important industrial and environmental pollutant that can target the vascular endothelium. To clarify the effects of lead on the unfolded protein response (UPR) and their significance in cytotoxicity, we examined the expression and function of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) chaperones glucose-regulated protein 78 (GRP78) and glucose-regulated protein 94 (GRP94) in vascular endothelial cells. We used bovine aortic endothelial cells as an in vitro model of the vascular endothelium. Exposure of vascular endothelial cells to lead nitrate resulted in a marked induction of GRP78 and GRP94 messenger RNA levels. In response to lead, the expression of GRP78 and GRP94 proteins also significantly increased in a dose- and time-dependent manner. In addition, small interfering RNA (siRNA)-mediated knockdown of GRP78 significantly enhanced lead-induced cytotoxicity. Compared with other metal(loid)s, including cadmium chloride, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, and sodium arsenite, lead nitrate was found to be the most potent metal to induce these chaperones in endothelial cells. In the examined UPR pathways, lead increased the phosphorylation of inositol-requiring enzyme 1 (IRE1) and c-jun N-terminal kinase (JNK). Interestingly, the lead-induced upregulation of GRP78 and GRP94 was almost completely blocked by the JNK inhibitor SP600125 or activator protein-1 (AP-1) inhibitor curcumin. Taken together, these results suggest that lead induces ER stress, but the induction of GRP78 and GRP94 expression via the JNK-AP-1 pathway functions as a defense mechanism against lead-induced cytotoxicity in vascular endothelial cells.

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