William Sunderman, F.;
Kasprzak, Kazimierz S.;
Human exposure to highly nickel-polluted environments, such as those associated with nickel refining, electroplating, and welding, has the potential to produce a variety of pathologic effects. Among them are skin allergies, lung fibrosis, and cancer of the respiratory tract. The exact mechanisms of nickel-induced carcinogenesis are not known and have been the subject of numerous epidemiologic and experimental investigations. These mechanisms are likely to involve genetic and epigenetic routes. The present review provides evidence for the genotoxic and mutagenic activity of Ni(II) particularly at high doses. Such doses are best delivered into the cells by phagocytosis of sparingly soluble nickel-containing dust particles. Ni(II) genotoxicity may be aggravated through the generation of DNA-damaging reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the inhibition of DNA repair by this metal. Broad spectrum of epigenetic effects of nickel includes alteration in gene expression resulting from DNA hypermethylation and histone hypoacetylation, as well as activation or silencing of certain genes and transcription factors, especially those involved in cellular response to hypoxia. The investigations of the pathogenic effects of nickel greatly benefit from the understanding of the chemical basis of Ni(II) interactions with intracellular targets/ligands and oxidants. Many pathogenic effects of nickel are due to the interference with the metabolism of essential metals such as Fe(II), Mn(II), Ca(II), Zn(II), or Mg(II). Research in this field allows for identification of putative Ni(II) targets relevant to carcinogenesis and prediction of pathogenic effects caused by exposure to nickel. Ultimately, the investigations of nickel carcinogenesis should be aimed at the development of treatments that would inhibit or prevent Ni(II) interactions with critical target molecules and ions, Fe(II) in particular, and thus avert the respiratory tract cancer and other adverse health effects in nickel workers.