In vitro toxicological characterisation of three arsenic-containing hydrocarbons
Arsenic-containing hydrocarbons are one group of fat-soluble organic arsenic compounds (arsenolipids) found in marine fish and other seafood. A risk assessment of arsenolipids is urgently needed, but has not been possible because of the total lack of toxicological data. In this study the cellular toxicity of three arsenic-containing hydrocarbons was investigated in cultured human bladder (UROtsa) and liver (HepG2) cells. Cytotoxicity of the arsenic-containing hydrocarbons was comparable to that of arsenite, which was applied as the toxic reference arsenical. A large cellular accumulation of arsenic, as measured by ICP-MS/MS, was observed after incubation of both cell lines with the arsenolipids. Moreover, the toxic mode of action shown by the three arsenic-containing hydrocarbons seemed to differ from that observed for arsenite. Evidence suggests that the high cytotoxic potential of the lipophilic arsenicals results from a decrease in the cellular energy level. This first in vitro based risk assessment cannot exclude a risk to human health related to the presence of arsenolipids in seafood, and indicates the urgent need for further toxicity studies in experimental animals to fully assess this possible risk.