Exposure to arsenic is a worldwide problem that affects more than 200 million people. The underlying mechanisms of arsenic toxicity have been difficult to ascertain due to arsenic's pleotropic effects. A number of recent investigations have shown that arsenic can compromise protein quality control through the ubiquitin proteasome system (UPS) or the endoplasmic reticulum associated protein degradation (ERAD) pathway. In this article, a link between arsenic and protein quality control is reported. Biochemical and cellular data demonstrate a misregulation of the ATPase cycle of the ATPase associated with various cellular activities (AAA+) chaperone, p97. Interestingly, the loss of p97 activity is due to the increased rate of ATP hydrolysis, which mimics a collection of pathogenic genetic p97 lesions. Cellular studies, using a well characterized reporter of both the proteasome and p97, show the proteasome to also be compromised. This loss of both p97 and proteasome functions can explain the catastrophic protein quality control issues observed in acute, high level arsenic exposures.
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