Int J Biol Sci 2022; 18(1):301-314. doi:10.7150/ijbs.67314 This issue

Research Paper

Metabolomic dynamics of the arsenic-transformed bronchial epithelial cells and the derived cancer stem-like cells

Yao Fu1,2*, Zhuoyue Bi1,2*, Lingzhi Li2*#, Priya Wadgaonkar2, Yiran Qiu1,2, Bandar Almutairy2, Wenxuan Zhang1,2, Akimasa Seno2†, Chitra Thakur1,2, Fei Chen1,2,3✉

1. Stony Brook Cancer Center, Renaissance School of Medicine, The State University of New York, Stony Brook University, Lauterbur Drive, Stony Brook, NY 11794, USA.
2. Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Wayne State University, 259 Mack Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201, USA.
3. Department of Pathology, Renaissance School of Medicine, Stony Brook University, 101 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook, NY 11794, USA.
*These authors contributed equally to this project.
# Current address: Department of Lymphoma and Myeloma, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.
Current address: Faculty of Engineering, Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering in Health Systems, Okayama University, Okayama 700-8530, Japan.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( See for full terms and conditions.
Fu Y, Bi Z, Li L, Wadgaonkar P, Qiu Y, Almutairy B, Zhang W, Seno A, Thakur C, Chen F. Metabolomic dynamics of the arsenic-transformed bronchial epithelial cells and the derived cancer stem-like cells. Int J Biol Sci 2022; 18(1):301-314. doi:10.7150/ijbs.67314. Available from

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Graphic abstract

Accumulating evidence indicates a carcinogenic role of environmental arsenic exposure, but mechanisms on how arsenic fosters malignant transformation of the normal cells are not fully established. By applying untargeted global metabolomics approach, we now show that arsenic is highly capable of perturbing the intracellular metabolic programs of the human bronchial epithelial cells, some of which are prominent hallmarks of cancer cell metabolism. To understand the spatiotemporal patterns of arsenic regulation on multiple metabolic pathways, we treated the cells with environmentally relevant concentration of arsenic, 0.25 μM, consecutively for 6 weeks to 24 weeks, and found that arsenic prompted heme metabolism, glycolysis, sphingolipid metabolism, phospholipid catabolism, protein degradation, and cholesterol breakdown constitutively, but inhibited metabolism of uracil-containing pyrimidine, carnitine, serotonin, polyamines, and fatty acid β-oxidation. A strong inhibition of all metabolites in mitochondrial tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle was noted in the cells treated with As3+ for 6 to 13 weeks. However, the metabolites in the earlier, but not the later steps of TCA cycle, including citrate, aconitate and isocitrate, were induced at 16 weeks through 24 weeks of arsenic treatment. This comprehensive metabolomics analysis provides new insights into metabolic perturbation by arsenic and may lead to more precise indications of arsenic in molecular carcinogenesis.

Keywords: arsenic, cancer, metabolomics, metabolism, cancer stem cells