Most cases of mesothelioma are known to result from exposure to asbestos fibers in the environment or occupational ambient air. The following questions regarding asbestos toxicity remain partially unanswered: (i) why asbestos entering the alveoli during respiration exerts toxicity in the pleura; and (ii) how asbestos causes mesothelioma, even though human mesothelial cells are easily killed upon exposure to asbestos. As for the latter question, it is now thought that the frustrated phagocytosis of asbestos fibers by macrophages prolongs inflammatory responses and gives rise to a “mutagenic microenvironment” around mesothelial cells, resulting in their malignant transformation. Based on epidemiological and genetic studies, a carcinogenic model has been proposed in which BRCA1-associated protein 1 mutations are able to suppress cell death in mesothelial cells and increase genomic instability in the mutagenic microenvironment. This leads to additional mutations, such as CDKN2A [p16], NF2, TP53, LATS2, and SETD2, which are associated with mesothelioma carcinogenesis. Regarding the former question, the receptors involved in the intracellular uptake of asbestos and the mechanism of transfer of inhaled asbestos from the alveoli to the pleura are yet to be elucidated. Further studies using live-cell imaging techniques will be critical to fully understanding the mechanisms underlying asbestos toxicity.
Authors: Akio Kuroda
; Full Source: Genes and environment : the official journal of the Japanese Environmental Mutagen Society 2021 Oct 12;43(1):46. doi: 10.1186/s41021-021-00215-0.