Arsenic induces structural and compositional colonic microbiome change and promotes host nitrogen and amino acid metabolism



Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Publication Title

Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology





First Page


Last Page





Arginine, Arsenic, Bacteroidetes, Colon microbiome, Firmicutes, Nitrite/nitrate


Chronic exposure to arsenic in drinking water causes cancer and non-cancer diseases. However, mechanisms for chronic arsenic-induced pathogenesis, especially in response to lower exposure levels, are unclear. In addition, the importance of health impacts from xeniobiotic-promoted microbiome changes is just being realized and effects of arsenic on the microbiome with relation to disease promotion are unknown. To investigate impact of arsenic exposure on both microbiome and host metabolism, the stucture and composition of colonic microbiota, their metabolic phenotype, and host tissue and plasma metabolite levels were compared in mice exposed for 2, 5, or 10. weeks to 0, 10 (low) or 250 (high) ppb arsenite (As(III)). Genotyping of colonic bacteria revealed time and arsenic concentration dependent shifts in community composition, particularly the Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes, relative to those seen in the time-matched controls. Arsenic-induced erosion of bacterial biofilms adjacent to the mucosal lining and changes in the diversity and abundance of morphologically distinct species indicated changes in microbial community structure. Bacterical spores increased in abundance and intracellular inclusions decreased with high dose arsenic. Interestingly, expression of arsenate reductase (arsA) and the As(III) exporter arsB, remained unchanged, while the dissimilatory nitrite reductase (nrfA) gene expression increased. In keeping with the change in nitrogen metabolism, colonic and liver nitrite and nitrate levels and ratios changed with time. In addition, there was a concomitant increase in pathogenic arginine metabolites in the mouse circulation. These data suggest that arsenic exposure impacts the microbiome and microbiome/host nitrogen metabolism to support disease enhancing pathogenic phenotypes.

Open Access

Green Accepted