Arsenic inhibits neurite outgrowth by inhibiting the LKB1-AMPK signaling pathway

Xin Wang, Dan Meng, Qingshan Chang, Jingju Pan, Zhuo Zhang, Gang Chen, Zunji Ke, Jia Luo, Xianglin Shi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Background: Arsenic (As) is an environmental pollutant that induces numerous pathological effects, including neurodevelopmental disorders. Objectives and Methods: We evaluated the role of the LKB1-AMPK pathway in As-induced developmental neurotoxicity using Neuro-2a (N2a) neuroblastoma cells as a model of developing neurons. Results: The addition of low concentrations of As (≤ 5 μM) during differentiation caused an inhibitory effect on the neurite outgrowth in N2a cells in the absence of cell death. Activation of adenosine monophosphate-activated kinase (AMPK) induced by retinoic acid in differentiating cells was blocked by As. Pretreatment with the AMPK-specific activator 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide riboside or overexpression of a constitutively active AMPK-α1 plasmid reversed As-induced inhibition of neurite outgrowth. The activation of LKB1 (serine/threonine kinase 11), a major AMPK kinase, was also suppressed by As by inhibiting both the phosphorylation and the translocation of LKB1 from nucleus to cytoplasm. Antioxidants, such as N-acetyl cysteine and superoxide dismutase, but not catalase, protected against As-induced inactivation of the LKB1-AMPK pathway and reversed the inhibitory effect of As on neurite outgrowth. Conclusions: Reduced neurite outgrowth induced by As results from deficient activation of AMPK as a consequence of a lack of activation of LKB1. Oxidative stress induced by As, especially excessive superoxide, plays a critical role in blocking the LKB1-AMPK pathway. Our studies provide insight into the mechanisms underlying As-induced developmental neurotoxicity, which is important for designing a new strategy for protecting children against this neurotoxic substance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)627-634
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2010


  • AMPK
  • Arsenic
  • Developmental neurotoxicity
  • LKB1
  • Neurite outgrowth
  • Neuro-2a neuroblastoma cell
  • ROS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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