We would like to thank the editors for providing us with the opportunity to respond to the points raised by Dr. García Nieto.[...].
Exposure to arsenic in drinking water is associated with increased respiratory disease. Alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) protects the lung against tissue destruction. The objective of this study was to determine whether arsenic exposure is associated with changes in airway AAT concentration and whether this relationship is modified by selenium. A total of 55 subjects were evaluated in Ajo and Tucson, Arizona. Tap water and first morning void urine were analyzed for arsenic species, induced sputum for AAT and toenails for selenium and arsenic. Household tap-water arsenic, toenail arsenic and urinary inorganic arsenic and metabolites were significantly higher in Ajo (20.6±3.5 μg/l, 0.54±0.77 μg/g and 27.7±21.2 μg/l, respectively) than in Tucson (3.9±2.5 μg/l, 0.16±0.20 μg/g and 13.0±13.8 μg/l, respectively). In multivariable models, urinary monomethylarsonic acid (MMA) was negatively, and toenail selenium positively associated with sputum AAT (P=0.004 and P=0.002, respectively). In analyses stratified by town, these relationships remained significant only in Ajo, with the higher arsenic exposure. Reduction in AAT may be a means by which arsenic induces respiratory disease, and selenium may protect against this adverse effect.
As part of the innate immune defense, the polarized conducting lung epithelium acts as a barrier to keep particulates carried in respiration from underlying tissue. Arsenic is a metalloid toxicant that can affect the lung via inhalation or ingestion. We have recently shown that chronic exposure of mice or humans to arsenic (10-50 ppb) in drinking water alters bronchiolar lavage or sputum proteins consistent with reduced epithelial cell migration and wound repair in the airway. In this report, we used an in vitro model to examine effects of acute exposure of arsenic (15-290 ppb) on conducting airway lung epithelium. We found that arsenic at concentrations as low as 30 ppb inhibits reformation of the epithelial monolayer following scrape wounds of monolayer cultures. In an effort to understand functional contributions to epithelial wound repair altered by arsenic, we showed that acute arsenic exposure increases activity and expression of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-9, an important protease in lung function. Furthermore, inhibition of MMP-9 in arsenic-treated cells improved wound repair. We propose that arsenic in the airway can alter the airway epithelial barrier by restricting proper wound repair in part through the upregulation of MMP-9 by lung epithelial cells.