Asbestos is known to induce malignant mesothelioma (MM) and other asbestos-related diseases. It is directly genotoxic by inducing DNA strand breaks and cytotoxic by promoting apoptosis in lung target cells. Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase-1 (PARP1) is a nuclear zinc-finger protein with a function as a DNA damage sensor. To determine whether PARP1 is involved in asbestos-induced carcinogenesis, PARP1 expression and activity as well as DNA damage and repair were evaluated in circulating cells of asbestos-exposed subjects, MM patients and age-matched controls. PARP1 expression and activity were also evaluated in pleural biopsies of MM patients and compared with normal tissue. Accumulation of the pre-mutagenic 8-hydroxy-2'-deoxyguanosine and elevated PARP1 expression were found both in asbestos-exposed subjects and MM patients. Although PARP1 was highly expressed, its activity was relatively low. Low DNA repair efficiency was observed in lymphocytes from MM patients. High expression of PARP1 associated with low PARP activity was also found in MM biopsies. To mimic PARP1 dysfunction, PARP1 expression and activity were induced in immortalised mesothelial cells by their exposure to asbestos in the presence of a PARP1 inhibitor, which resulted in transformation of the cells. We propose that exposure to asbestos inhibits the PARP1 activity possibly resulting in higher DNA instability, thus causing malignant transformation.
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