Trivalent inorganic arsenite [iAs(III)] is known to alter the expression of a number of genes associated with transcription and cell proliferation, which was thought to be one of the possible mechanisms of arsenical carcinogenesis. However, the detailed mechanisms underlying iAs(III) induction of changes in gene expression are not fully understood. Here we examine the role of histone H3 phosphorylation at serine 10 (Ser10) in gene regulation when the cells were treated with iAs(III). Among the 34 genes tested, iAs(III) induced mRNA expression of JUN, FOS, EGR1, HMOX1, HSPA1A, IL8, GADD45A, GADD45B and GADD153. Phosphorylation of histone H3 Ser10 was induced by iAs(III) in interphase cells, and was effectively blocked by the ERKs pathway inhibitor (U0126). U0126 treatment significantly reduced constitutive mRNA expression of FOS and EGR1, and dramatically suppressed the induction of FOS, EGR1 and IL8 mRNA in iAs(III)-treated cells. The other genes, which were induced by iAs(III), were not affected by U0126 treatment. When the histone H3 nonphosphorylatable mutant of serine 10 (S10A) was overexpressed in cells, iAs(III) induction of FOS, EGR1and IL8 expression was significantly decreased as compared with wild-type cells. The other genes induced by iAs(III) were not changed in S10A cells nor by U0126 treatment. In addition, S10A cells were more resistant to iAs(III) cytotoxicity. These results indicated that the phosphorylation of histone H3 at Ser10 through the ERKs pathway in interphase cells is an important regulatory event for iAs(III)-mediated gene expression. Aberrant gene expression seems to be an important cause of cytotoxicity and may have some relation to iAs(III) carcinogenicity. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.