Valproic acid counteracts polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)-induced tumorigenic effects by regulating the polarization of macrophages

Yisha Zhang, David Lim, Zuchao Cai, Junxuan Peng, Beidi Jia, Guoliang Chu, Fengmei Zhang, Chao Dong, Zhihui Feng

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Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are common persistent organic pollutants that are carcinogenic, teratogenic and mutagenic, causing a variety of harm to human health. In this study, we investigated the mechanism of how valproic acid (VPA) interferes with the carcinogenesis of PAHs protect normal tissues via the regulation of macrophages’ function. Using the established model of transformed malignant breast cancer by 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA), a representative PAH carcinogen, we discovered VPA induces the polarization of macrophages toward the M1 phenotype in the tumor tissues, facilitates the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as IFN-γ, IL-12 and TNF-α, activates CD8+ T cells to secret Granzyme B thus to promote the apoptosis of tumor cells and suppresses the viability of vascular endothelial cells in tissue stroma of tumor. Surprisingly, VPA selectively induces macrophages to polarize towards the M2 phenotype in normal tissues and promotes the expression of anti-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-10 to enhance cell proliferation. Additionally, at the cellular level, VPA can directly regulate the polarization of macrophages to affect the growth of vascular endothelial cells by simulating the living conditions of tumor and normal cells. Collectively, VPA exerts an interventional effect on tumor growth and a protective effect on normal tissues by regulation of selective macrophages’ polarization in their microenvironment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113779
Number of pages12
Early online date22 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • Macrophages
  • PAHs
  • Vasculature
  • VPA


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