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Event: 18

Key Event Title

A descriptive phrase which defines a discrete biological change that can be measured. More help

Activation, AhR

Short name
The KE short name should be a reasonable abbreviation of the KE title and is used in labelling this object throughout the AOP-Wiki. More help
Activation, AhR
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Biological Context

Structured terms, selected from a drop-down menu, are used to identify the level of biological organization for each KE. More help
Level of Biological Organization

Cell term

The location/biological environment in which the event takes place.The biological context describes the location/biological environment in which the event takes place.  For molecular/cellular events this would include the cellular context (if known), organ context, and species/life stage/sex for which the event is relevant. For tissue/organ events cellular context is not applicable.  For individual/population events, the organ context is not applicable.  Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf. More help

Organ term

The location/biological environment in which the event takes place.The biological context describes the location/biological environment in which the event takes place.  For molecular/cellular events this would include the cellular context (if known), organ context, and species/life stage/sex for which the event is relevant. For tissue/organ events cellular context is not applicable.  For individual/population events, the organ context is not applicable.  Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf. More help

Key Event Components

The KE, as defined by a set structured ontology terms consisting of a biological process, object, and action with each term originating from one of 14 biological ontologies (Ives, et al., 2017; Biological process describes dynamics of the underlying biological system (e.g., receptor signalling).Biological process describes dynamics of the underlying biological system (e.g., receptor signaling).  The biological object is the subject of the perturbation (e.g., a specific biological receptor that is activated or inhibited). Action represents the direction of perturbation of this system (generally increased or decreased; e.g., ‘decreased’ in the case of a receptor that is inhibited to indicate a decrease in the signaling by that receptor).  Note that when editing Event Components, clicking an existing Event Component from the Suggestions menu will autopopulate these fields, along with their source ID and description.  To clear any fields before submitting the event component, use the 'Clear process,' 'Clear object,' or 'Clear action' buttons.  If a desired term does not exist, a new term request may be made via Term Requests.  Event components may not be edited; to edit an event component, remove the existing event component and create a new one using the terms that you wish to add.  Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf. More help
Process Object Action
aryl hydrocarbon receptor activity aryl hydrocarbon receptor increased

Key Event Overview

AOPs Including This Key Event

All of the AOPs that are linked to this KE will automatically be listed in this subsection. This table can be particularly useful for derivation of AOP networks including the KE.Clicking on the name of the AOP will bring you to the individual page for that AOP. More help
AOP Name Role of event in AOP Point of Contact Author Status OECD Status
AhR mediated mortality, via COX-2 MolecularInitiatingEvent Allie Always (send email) Open for citation & comment WPHA/WNT Endorsed
AhR activation to steatosis MolecularInitiatingEvent Agnes Aggy (send email) Under Development: Contributions and Comments Welcome
AHR activation-uroporphyria MolecularInitiatingEvent Allie Always (send email) Open for citation & comment WPHA/WNT Endorsed
AHR activation to ELS mortality, via VEGF MolecularInitiatingEvent Arthur Author (send email) Open for citation & comment WPHA/WNT Endorsed
AHR mediated epigenetic reproductive failure MolecularInitiatingEvent Arthur Author (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite
AhR activation leading to preeclampsia MolecularInitiatingEvent Agnes Aggy (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite Under Development
AHR activation leading to lung fibrosis via TGF-β dependent fibrosis tox path MolecularInitiatingEvent Allie Always (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite
AHR activation leading to lung fibrosis via IL-6 tox path MolecularInitiatingEvent Evgeniia Kazymova (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite
AHR activation leading to lung cancer via IL-6 tox path MolecularInitiatingEvent Cataia Ives (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite
AHR activation leading to lung cancer via AHR-ARNT tox path MolecularInitiatingEvent Brendan Ferreri-Hanberry (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite
AHR activation decreasing lung function via AHR-ARNT tox path KeyEvent Arthur Author (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite
AHR activation decreasing lung function via P53 tox path KeyEvent Agnes Aggy (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite
AHR leading to lung cancer via NRF2 tox path MolecularInitiatingEvent Allie Always (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite
AhR activation to metastatic breast cancer MolecularInitiatingEvent Evgeniia Kazymova (send email) Under Development: Contributions and Comments Welcome Under Development
Ahr mediated early stage mortality via craniofacial malformations MolecularInitiatingEvent Agnes Aggy (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite Under Review
Ahr mediated early stage mortality via cardiovascular toxicity MolecularInitiatingEvent Allie Always (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite Under Review
AhR activation in the liver leading to Adverse Neurodevelopmental Outcomes in Mammals MolecularInitiatingEvent Cataia Ives (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite
AhR and chronic liver diseases MolecularInitiatingEvent Cataia Ives (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite
AhR activation in the thyroid leading to Adverse Neurodevelopmental Outcomes in Mammals MolecularInitiatingEvent Brendan Ferreri-Hanberry (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite

Taxonomic Applicability

Latin or common names of a species or broader taxonomic grouping (e.g., class, order, family) that help to define the biological applicability domain of the KE.In many cases, individual species identified in these structured fields will be those for which the strongest evidence used in constructing the AOP was available in relation to this KE. More help
Term Scientific Term Evidence Link
zebra danio Danio rerio High NCBI
Gallus gallus Gallus gallus High NCBI
Pagrus major Pagrus major High NCBI
Acipenser transmontanus Acipenser transmontanus High NCBI
Acipenser fulvescens Acipenser fulvescens High NCBI
rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss High NCBI
Salmo salar Salmo salar High NCBI
Xenopus laevis Xenopus laevis High NCBI
Ambystoma mexicanum Ambystoma mexicanum High NCBI
Phasianus colchicus Phasianus colchicus High NCBI
Coturnix japonica Coturnix japonica High NCBI
mouse Mus musculus High NCBI
rat Rattus norvegicus High NCBI
human Homo sapiens High NCBI
Microgadus tomcod Microgadus tomcod High NCBI
Homo sapiens Homo sapiens NCBI

Life Stages

An indication of the the relevant life stage(s) for this KE. More help
Life stage Evidence
Embryo High
Development High
All life stages High

Sex Applicability

An indication of the the relevant sex for this KE. More help
Term Evidence
Unspecific High

Key Event Description

A description of the biological state being observed or measured, the biological compartment in which it is measured, and its general role in the biology should be provided. More help

The AHR Receptor

The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) is a ligand-activated transcription factor that belongs to the basic helix-loop-helix Per-ARNT-Sim (bHLH-PAS) superfamily and consists of three domains: the DNA-binding domain (DBD), ligand binding domain (LBD) and transactivation domain (TAD)[1]. Other members of this superfamily include the AHR nuclear translocator (ARNT), which acts as a dimerization partner of the AHR [2][3]; Per, a circadian transcription factor; and Sim, the “single-minded” protein involved in neuronal development [4][5]. This group of proteins shares a highly conserved PAS domain and is involved in the detection of and adaptation to environmental change[4].

Investigations of invertebrates possessing early homologs of the AhR suggest that the AhR evolutionarily functioned in regulation of the cell cycle, cellular proliferation and differentiation, and cell-to-cell communications (Hahn et al 2002). However, critical functions in angiogenesis, regulation of the immune system, neuronal processes, metabolism, development of the heart and other organ systems, and detoxification have emerged sometime in early vertebrate evolution (Duncan et al., 1998; Emmons et al., 1999; Lahvis and Bradfield, 1998).

The molecular Initiating Event

Figure 1: The molecular mechanism of activation of gene expression by AHR.

The molecular mechanism for AHR-mediated activation of gene expression is presented in Figure 1. In its unliganded form, the AHR is part of a cytosolic complex containing heat shock protein 90 (HSP90), the HSP90 co-chaperone p23 and AHR-interacting protein (AIP)[6]. Upon ligand binding, the AHR migrates to the nucleus where it dissociates from the cytosolic complex and forms a heterodimer with ARNT[7]. The AHR-ARNT complex then binds to a xenobiotic response element (XRE) found in the promoter of an AHR-regulated gene and recruits co-regulators such as CREB binding protein/p300, steroid receptor co-activator (SRC) 1, SRC-2, SRC-3 and nuclear receptor interacting protein 1, leading to induction or repression of gene expression[6]. Expression levels of several genes, including phase I (e.g. cytochrome P450 (CYP) 1A, CYP1B, CYP2A) and phase II enzymes (e.g. uridine diphosphate glucuronosyl transferase (UDP-GT), glutathione S-transferases (GSTs)), as well as genes involved in cell proliferation (transforming growth factor-beta, interleukin-1 beta), cell cycle regulation (p27, jun-B) and apoptosis (Bax), are regulated through this mechanism [6][8][7][9].

AHR Isoforms

  • Over time the AhR has undergone gene duplication and diversification in vertebrates, which has resulted in multiple clades of AhR, namely AhR1, AhR2, and AhR3 (Hahn 2002).
  • Fishes and birds express AhR1s and AhR2s, while mammals express a single AhR that is homologous to the AhR1 (Hahn 2002; Hahn et al 2006).
  • The AhR3 is poorly understood and known only from some cartilaginous fishes (Hahn 2002).
  • Little is known about diversity of AhRs in reptiles and amphibians (Hahn et al 2002).
  • In some taxa, subsequent genome duplication events have further led to multiple isoforms of AhRs in some species, with up to four isoforms of the AhR (α, β, δ, γ) having been identified in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) (Hansson et al 2004).
  • Although homologs of the AhR have been identified in some invertebrates, compared to vertebrates these AhRs have differences in binding of ligands in the species investigated to date (Hahn 2002; Hahn et al 1994).

Roles of isoforms in birds:

Two AHR isoforms (AHR1 and AHR2) have been identified in the black-footed albatross (Phoebastria nigripes), great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) and domestic chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus)[10]. AHR1 mRNA levels were similar in the kidney, heart, lung, spleen, brain, gonad and intestine from the great cormorant but were lower in muscle and pancreas. AHR2 expression was mainly observed in the liver, but was also detected in gonad, brain and intestine. AHR1 levels represented a greater proportion (80%) of total AHR levels than AHR2 in the cormorant liver[10], and while both AHR isoforms bound to TCDD, AHR2 was less effective at inducing TCDD-dependent transactivation compared to AHR1 in black-footed albatross, great cormorant and domestic chicken[11][10].

  • AhR1 and AhR2 both bind and are activated by TCDD in vitro (Yasui et al 2007).
  • AhR1 has greater binding affinity and sensitivity to activation by TCDD relative to AhR2 (Yasui et al 2007).
  • AhR1 is believed to mediate toxicities of DLCs, while AhR2 has no known role in toxicities (Farmahin et al 2012; Farmahin et al 2013; Manning et al 2012).

Roles of isoforms in fishes:

  • AhR1 and AhR2 both bind and are activated by TCDD in vitro (Bak et al 2013; Doering et al 2014; 2015; Karchner et al 1999; 2005).
  • AhR1 has greater sensitivity to activation by TCDD than AhR2 in red seabream (Pagrus major), white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus), and lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) (Bak et al 2013; Doering et al 2014; 2015)
  • AhR2 has greater binding affinity or activation by TCDD than AhR1 in zebrafish (Danio rerio) and mummichog (Fundulus heteroclitus) (Karchner et al 1999; 2005).
  • AhR2 is believed to mediate toxicities in fishes, while AhR1 has no known role in toxicities. Specifically, knockdown of AhR2 protects against toxicities of dioxin-like compounds (DLCs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in zebrafish (Danio rerio) and mummichog (Fundulus heteroclitus), while knockdown of AhR1 offers no protection (Clark et al 2010; Prasch et al 2003; Van Tiem & Di Giulio 2011).

Roles of isoforms in amphibians and reptiles:

  • Less is known about AhRs of amphibians or reptiles.
  • AhR1 is believed to mediate toxicities in amphibians (Hahn 2002; Lavine et al 2005; Oka et al 2016; Shoots et al 2015). However, all AhRs of amphibians that have been investigated have very low affinity for TCDD (Hahn 2002; Lavine et al 2005; Oka et al 2016; Shoots et al 2015).
  • Both AhR1s and AhR2 of American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) are activated by agonists with comparable sensitivities (Oka et al 2016). AhRs of no other reptiles have been investigated.

How It Is Measured or Detected

A description of the type(s) of measurements that can be employed to evaluate the KE and the relative level of scientific confidence in those measurements.These can range from citation of specific validated test guidelines, citation of specific methods published in the peer reviewed literature, or outlines of a general protocol or approach (e.g., a protein may be measured by ELISA). Do not provide detailed protocols. More help

Methods that have been previously reviewed and approved by a recognized authority should be included in the Overview section above. All other methods, including those well established in the published literature, should be described here. Consider the following criteria when describing each method: 1. Is the assay fit for purpose? 2. Is the assay directly or indirectly (i.e. a surrogate) related to a key event relevant to the final adverse effect in question? 3. Is the assay repeatable? 4. Is the assay reproducible?

Transactivation Reporter Gene Assays (recommended approach)

Transient transfection transactivation

Transient transfection transactivation is the most common method for evaluating nuclear receptor activation[12]. Full-length AHR cDNAs are cloned into an expression vector along with a reporter gene construct (chimeric luciferase, P-lactamase or CAT reporter vectors containing the appropriate response elements for the gene of interest). There are a number of commercially available cell lines that can serve as recipients for these vectors (CV-1, HuH7, FLC-7, LS174T, LS180 MCF-7, HEC1, LLC-PK1, HEK293, HepG2, and Caco-2 cells)[12]. The greatest advantage of using transfected cells, rather than primary cell cultures, is the assurance that the nuclear receptor of interest is responsible for the observed induction. This would not be possible in a primary cell culture due to the co-regulation of different receptors for the same target genes. This model makes it easy to compare the responsiveness of the AHR across multiple species under the same conditions simply by switching out the AHR clone. One disadvantage to the transient transfection assay is the inherent variability associated with transfection efficiency, leading to a movement towards the use of stable cell lines containing the nuclear receptor and reporter gene linked to the appropriate response elements[12].

Luciferase reporter gene (LRG) assay

The described luciferase reporter gene (LRG) assays have been used to investigate activation of AhRs of:

  • Humans (Homo sapiens) (Abnet et al 1999) 
  • Species of birds, namely chicken (Gallus gallus), ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus), Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica), and common tern (Sterna hirundo) (Farmahin et al 2012; Manning et al 2013), Mutant AhR1s with ligand binding domains resembling those of at least 86 avian species have also been investigated (Farmahin et al 2013). AhR2s of birds have only been investigated in black-footed albatross (Phoebastria nigripes) and common cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) (Yasio et al 2007).
  • American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) is the only reptile for which AhR activation has been investigated (Oka et al 2016), AhR1A, AhR1B, and AhR2 of American alligator were assayed (Oka et al 2016).
  • AhR1 of two amphibians have been investigated, namely African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis) and salamander (Ambystoma mexicanum) (Lavine et al 2005; Shoots et al 2015; Ohi et al 2003),
  • AhR1s and AhR2s of several species of fish have been investigated, namely Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), Atlantic tomcod (Microgadus tomcod), white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus), rainbow trout (Onchorhynchys mykiss), red seabream (Pagrus major), lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens), and zebrafish (Danio rerio) (Andreasen et al 2002; Abnet et al 1999; Bak et al 2013; Doering et al 2014; 2015; Evans et al 2005; Hansson & Hahn 2008; Karchner et al 1999; Tanguay et al 1999; Wirgin et al 2011).

For demonstrative purposes, a luciferase reporter gene assay used to measure AHR1-mediated transactivation for avian species is described here. However, comparable assays are utilized for investigating AHR1s and AHR2s of all taxa. A monkey kidney cell line (Cos-7) that has low endogenous AHR1 expression was transfected with the appropriate avian AHR1 clone, cormorant ARNT1, a CYP1A5 firefly luciferase reporter construct and a Renilla luciferase vector to control for transfection efficiency. After seeding, the cells were exposed to DLC and luciferase activity was measured using a luminometer. Luminescence, which is proportional to the extent of AHR activation, is expressed as the ratio of firefly luciferase units to Renilla luciferase units [13]. This particular assay was modified from its original version to increase throughput efficiency; (a) cells were seeded in 96-well plates rather than Petri dishes or 48- well plates, (b) DLCs were added directly to the wells without changing the cell culture medium, and (c) the same 96-well plates were used to measure luminescence without lysing the cells and transferring to another plate. Similar reporter gene assays have been used to measure AHR1 activation in domestic and wild species of birds, including the chicken, ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus), Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica), great cormorant, black-footed albatross and peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus).[14][13][15][11][16][17]

Transactivation in stable cell lines

Stable cell lines have been developed and purified to the extent that each cell contains both the nuclear receptor and appropriate reporter vector, eliminating the variability associated with transfection [12]. A stable human cell line containing a luciferase reporter driven by multiple dioxin response elements has been developed that is useful in identifying AhR agonists and antagonists[18]. An added benefit of this model is the potential to multiplex 3 assays in a single well: receptor activation, cell viability and enzyme activity[12]. Such assays are used extensively in drug discovery due to their high throughput efficiency, and may serve just as useful for risk assessment purposes.

Ligand-Binding Assays

Ligand binding assays measure the ability of a test compound to compete with a labeled, high-affinity reference ligand for the LBD of a nuclear receptor. It is important to note that ligand binding does not necessitate receptor activation and therefore cannot distinguish between agonists and antagonists; however, binding affinities of AHR ligands are highly correlated with chemical potencies[19] and can explain differences in species sensitivities to DLCs[20][21][22]; they are therefore worth mentioning. Binding affinity and efficacy have been used to develop structure-activity relationships for AHR disruption[20][23] that are potentially useful in risk-assessment. There has been tremendous progress in the development of ligand-binding assays for nuclear receptors that use homogenous assay formats (no wash steps) allowing for the detection of low-affinity ligands, many of which do not require a radiolabel and are amenable to high throughput screening[24][12]. This author however was unable to find specific examples of such assays in the context of AHR binding and therefore some classic radioligand assays are described instead.

Hydroxyapatite (HAP) binding assay

The HAP binding assay makes use of an in vitro transcription/translation method to synthesize the AHR protein, which is then incubated with radiolabeled TDCPP and a HAP pellet. The occupied protein adsorbs to the HAP and the radioactivity is measured to determine saturation binding. An additional ligand can also be included in the mixture in order to determine its binding affinity relative to TCDD (competitive binding)[25][22]. This assay is simple, repeatable and reproducible; however, it is insensitive to weak ligand-receptor interactions[22][21][26].

Whole cell filtration binding assay

Dold and Greenlee[27] developed a method to detect specific binding of TCDD to whole mammalian cells in culture and was later modified by Farmahin et al.[21] for avian species. The cultured cells are incubated with radiolabeled TCDD with or without the presence of a competing ligand and filtered. The occupied protein adsorbs onto the filter and the radioactivity is measured to determine saturation binging and/or competitive binding. This assay is able to detect weak ligand-receptor interactions that are below the detection limit of the HAP assay[21].

Protein-DNA Interaction Assays

The active AHR complexed with ARNT can be measured using protein-DNA interaction assays. Two methods are described in detail by Perez-Romero and Imperiale[28]. Chromatin immunoprecipitation measures the interaction of proteins with specific genomic regions in vivo. It involves the treatment of cells with formaldehyde to crosslink neighboring protein-protein and protein-DNA molecules. Nuclear fractions are isolated, the genomic DNA is sheared, and nuclear lysates are used in immunoprecipitations with an antibody against the protein of interest. After reversal of the crosslinking, the associated DNA fragments are sequenced. Enrichment of specific DNA sequences represents regions on the genome that the protein of interest is associated with in vivo. Electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) provides a rapid method to study DNA-binding protein interactions in vitro. This relies on the fact that complexes of protein and DNA migrate through a nondenaturing polyacrylamide gel more slowly than free DNA fragments. The protein-DNA complex components are then identified with appropriate antibodies. The EMSA assay was found to be consistent with the LRG assay in chicken hepatoma cells dosed with dioxin-like compounds[29].

In silico Approaches

In silico homology modeling of the ligand binding domain of the AHR in combination with molecular docking simulations can provide valuable insight into the transactivation-potential of a diverse array of AHR ligands.  Such models have been developed for multiple AHR isoforms and ligands (high/low affinity, endogenous and synthetic, agonists and antagonists), and can accurately predict ligand potency based on their structure and physicochemical properties (Bonati et al 2017; Hirano et al 2015; Sovadinova et al 2006).

Domain of Applicability

A description of the scientific basis for the indicated domains of applicability and the WoE calls (if provided).  More help

The AHR structure has been shown to contribute to differences in species sensitivity to DLCs in several animal models. In 1976, a 10-fold difference was reported between two strains of mice (non-responsive DBA/2 mouse, and responsive C57BL/6 14 mouse) in CYP1A induction, lethality and teratogenicity following TCDD exposure[3]. This difference in dioxin sensitivity was later attributed to a single nucleotide polymorphism at position 375 (the equivalent position of amino acid residue 380 in chicken) in the AHR LBD[30][19][31]. Several other studies reported the importance of this amino acid in birds and mammals[32][30][22][33][34][35][31][36]. It has also been shown that the amino acid at position 319 (equivalent to 324 in chicken) plays an important role in ligand-binding affinity to the AHR and transactivation ability of the AHR, due to its involvement in LBD cavity volume and its steric effect[35]. Mutation at position 319 in the mouse eliminated AHR DNA binding[35].

The first study that attempted to elucidate the role of avian AHR1 domains and key amino acids within avian AHR1 in avian differential sensitivity was performed by Karchner et al.[22]. Using chimeric AHR1 constructs combining three AHR1 domains (DBD, LBD and TAD) from the chicken (highly sensitive to DLC toxicity) and common tern (resistant to DLC toxicity), Karchner and colleagues[22], showed that amino acid differences within the LBD were responsible for differences in TCDD sensitivity between the chicken and common tern. More specifically, the amino acid residues found at positions 324 and 380 in the AHR1 LBD were associated with differences in TCDD binding affinity and transactivation between the chicken (Ile324_Ser380) and common tern (Val324_Ala380) receptors[22]. Since the Karchner et al. (2006) study was conducted, the predicted AHR1 LBD amino acid sequences were been obtained for over 85 species of birds and 6 amino acid residues differed among species[14][37] . However, only the amino acids at positions 324 and 380 in the AHR1 LBD were associated with differences in DLC toxicity in ovo and AHR1-mediated gene expression in vitro[14][37][16]. These results indicate that avian species can be divided into one of three AHR1 types based on the amino acids found at positions 324 and 380 of the AHR1 LBD: type 1 (Ile324_Ser380), type 2 (Ile324_Ala380) and type 3 (Val324_Ala380)[14][37][16].

  • Little is known about differences in binding affinity of AhRs and how this relates to sensitivity in non-avian taxa.
  • Low binding affinity for DLCs of AhR1s of African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis) and axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) has been suggested as a mechanism for tolerance of these amphibians to DLCs (Lavine et al 2005; Shoots et al 2015).
  • Among reptiles, only AhRs of American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) have been investigated and little is known about the sensitivity of American alligator or other reptiles to DLCs (Oka et al 2016).
  • Among fishes, great differences in sensitivity to DLCs are known both for AhRs and for embryos among species that have been tested (Doering et al 2013; 2014).
  • Differences in binding affinity of the AhR2 have been demonstrated to explain differences in sensitivity to DLCs between sensitive and tolerant populations of Atlantic Tomcod (Microgadus tomcod) (Wirgin et al 2011).
    • This was attributed to the rapid evolution of populations in highly contaminated areas of the Hudson River, resulting in a 6-base pair deletion in the AHR sequence (outside the LBD) and reduced ligand binding affinity, due to reduces AHR protein stability.
  • Information is not yet available regarding whether differences in binding affinity of AhRs of fishes are predictive of differences in sensitivity of embryos, juveniles, or adults (Doering et al 2013).

The AhR is a very conserved and ancient protein (95) and the AhR is present  in human and mice (96–98). The AhR is present in human physiology and pathology. The AhR is highly expressed at several important physiological barriers such as the placenta, lung, gastrointestinal system, and liver in human (Wakx, Marinelli, Watanabe).  In these tissues, the AhR is involved in both detoxication processes involving xenobiotic metabolizing enzymes such as cytochromes P450, and in immune functions translating chemical signals into immune defence pathways (Marinelli, Stobbe). Moreover, it has a regulatory role in human dendritic cells and myelination (Kado, Shackleford). The lung constitutes another barrier exposed to components of air pollution such as particles and hydrocarbons (air pollution, cigarette smoke). The AhR detects such hydrocarbons and protects the pulmonary cells from their deleterious effects through metabolization. The regulatory effect on blood cells of the AhR, balancing different related cell types, can be extended to the megakaryocytes and their precursors; indeed, StemRegenin 1 (SR1), an antagonist of the AhR increases the human population of CD34+CD41low cells, a fraction of very efficient precursors of proplatelets (Bock). The occurrence of a nystagmus has been subsequently diagnosed in humans bearing a AhR mutation (Borovok).

In human cancer, the AhR has either a pro or con tumor effect depending on the tissue, the ligand, and the duration of the activation (Zudaire, Chang, Litzenburg, Gramatzki, Lin, Wang). In human breast cancer, the AhR is thoughts to be responsible of its progression (Goode, Kanno, Optiz, Novikov, Hall, Subramaniam, Barhoover). In human mammary benign cells, Brooks et al. noted that a high level of AhR was associated with a modified cell cycle (with a 50% increase in population doubling time in cells expressing the AhR by more than 3-fold) and EMT including increased cell migration. Narasimnhan et al. found that suppression of the AhR pathway had a pro-tumorigenic effect in vitro (EMT, tumor migration) in triple negative breast cancer.

Many endogenous and exogenous ligands are present for the AhR in human (Optiz, Adachi, Schroeder, Rothhammer). Indoles, such as indole-3-carbinol or one of its secondary metabolites, 3-3'- Diindolylmethane, are degradation products found in cruciferous vegetables and characterized as AhR ligands (Ema, Kall, Miller) they are also inducers of the human and rat CYP1A1 (Optiz). FICZ is the most potent AhR ligand known to date: it has a stronger affinity than TCDD for the human AhR (TCDD Kd=0.48 nM/FICZ Kd=0.07 nM) (Coumoul).


List of the literature that was cited for this KE description. More help
  1. 1.0 1.1 Okey, A. B. (2007). An aryl hydrocarbon receptor odyssey to the shores of toxicology: the Deichmann Lecture, International Congress of Toxicology-XI. Toxicol.Sci. 98, 5-38.
  2. Hoffman, E. C., Reyes, H., Chu, F. F., Sander, F., Conley, L. H., Brooks, B. A., and Hankinson, O. (1991). Cloning of a factor required for activity of the Ah (dioxin) receptor. Science 252, 954-958.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Poland, A., Glover, E., and Kende, A. S. (1976). Stereospecific, high affinity binding of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin by hepatic cytosol. Evidence that the binding species is receptor for induction of aryl hydrocarbon hydroxylase. J.Biol.Chem. 251, 4936-4946.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Gu, Y. Z., Hogenesch, J. B., and Bradfield, C. A. (2000). The PAS superfamily: sensors of environmental and developmental signals. Annu.Rev.Pharmacol.Toxicol. 40, 519-561.
  5. Kewley, R. J., Whitelaw, M. L., and Chapman-Smith, A. (2004). The mammalian basic helix-loop-helix/PAS family of transcriptional regulators. Int.J.Biochem.Cell Biol. 36, 189-204.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Fujii-Kuriyama, Y., and Kawajiri, K. (2010). Molecular mechanisms of the physiological functions of the aryl hydrocarbon (dioxin) receptor, a multifunctional regulator that senses and responds to environmental stimuli. Proc.Jpn.Acad.Ser.B Phys.Biol.Sci. 86, 40-53.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Mimura, J., and Fujii-Kuriyama, Y. (2003). Functional role of AhR in the expression of toxic effects by TCDD. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - General Subjects 1619, 263-268.
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