Transcriptional Responses to Complex Mixtures a Review

Exposure of people to hazardous compounds is primarily through complex environmental mixtures, those that occur through media such as air, soil, water, food, cigarette smoke, and combustion emissions. Microarray technology offers the ability to query the entire genome after exposure to such an array of compounds, permitting a characterization of the biological effects of such exposures. This review summarizes the published literature on the transcriptional profiles resulting from exposure of cells or organisms to complex environmental mixtures such as cigarette smoke, diesel emissions, urban air, motorcycle exhaust, carbon black, jet fuel, and metal ore and fumes. The majority of the mixtures generally up-regulate gene expression, with heme oxygenase 1 and CYP1A1 being up-regulated by all of the mixtures. Most of the mixtures altered the expression of genes involved in oxidative stress response (OH-1, metallothioneins), immune/inflammation response (IL-1b, protein kinase), xenobiotic metabolism (CYP1A1, CYP1B1), coagulation and fibrinolysis (plasminogen activator/inhibitor), proto-oncogenes (FUS1, JUN), heat-shock response (HSP60, HSP70), DNA repair (PCNA, GADD45), structural unit of condensed DNA (Crf15Orf16, DUSP 15), and extracellular matrix degradation (MMP1, 8, 9, 11, 12). Genes involved in aldehyde metabolism, such as ALDH3, appeared to be uniquely modulated by cigarette smoke. Cigarette smoke-exposed populations have been successfully distinguished from control nonexposed populations based on the expression pattern of a subset of genes, thereby demonstrating the utility of this approach in identifying biomarkers of exposure and susceptibility. The analysis of gene-expression data at the pathway and functional level, along with a systems biology approach, will provide a more comprehensive insight into the biological effects of complex mixtures and will improve risk assessment of the same. We suggest critical components of study design and reporting that will achieve this goal.


SEN, B., B. Mahadevan, AND D. M. DEMARINI. Transcriptional Responses to Complex Mixtures a Review. MUTATION RESEARCH. Elsevier Science Ltd, New York, NY, 636(1-3):144-177, (2007).

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