Molecular Mechanism Underlying Pathogenesis of Lewisite-Induced Cutaneous Blistering and Inflammation: Chemical Chaperones as Potential Novel Antidotes

Academic Article


  • Lewisite is a potent arsenic-based chemical warfare agent known to induce painful cutaneous inflammation and blistering. Only a few modestly effective antidotes have so far been described in the literature. However, the discovery of effective antidotes for lewisite was hampered by the paucity of the exact molecular mechanism underlying its cutaneous pathogenesis. We investigated the molecular mechanism underlying lewisite-induced cutaneous blistering and inflammation and describe its novel antidotes. On the basis of our initial screening, we used a highly sensitive murine model that recapitulates the known human pathogenesis of arsenicals-induced cutaneous inflammation and blistering. Topically administered lewisite induced potent acute inflammation and microvesication in the skin of Ptch1+/−/SKH-1 mice. Even at a very low dose, lewisite up-regulates unfolded protein response signaling, inflammatory response, and apoptosis. These cutaneous lesions were associated with production of reactive oxygen species and extensive apoptosis of the epidermal keratinocytes. We confirmed that activation of reactive oxygen species–dependent unfolded protein response signaling is the underlying molecular mechanism of skin damage. Similar alterations were noticed in lewisite-treated cultured human skin keratinocytes. We discovered that chemical chaperone 4–phenyl butyric acid and antioxidant N-acetylcysteine, which significantly attenuate lewisite-mediated skin injury, can serve as potent antidotes. These data reveal a novel molecular mechanism underlying the cutaneous pathogenesis of lewisite-induced lesions. We also identified novel potential therapeutic targets for lewisite-mediated cutaneous injury.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Li C; Srivastava RK; Weng Z; Croutch CR; Agarwal A; Elmets CA; Afaq F; Athar M
  • Start Page

  • 2637
  • End Page

  • 2649
  • Volume

  • 186
  • Issue

  • 10