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1.  HSP90 Inhibitors Suppress Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor-Mediated Activation of CYP1A1 and CYP1B1 Transcription and DNA Adduct Formation 
The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), a client protein of heat shock protein 90 (HSP90), plays a significant role in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) induced carcinogenesis. Tobacco smoke, a source of PAHs, activates the AhR leading to enhanced transcription of CYP1A1 and CYP1B1, which encode proteins that convert PAHs to genotoxic metabolites. The main objectives of this study were to determine whether HSP90 inhibitors suppress PAH-mediated induction of CYP1A1 and CYP1B1 or block benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P) induced formation of DNA adducts. Treatment of cell lines derived from oral leukoplakia (MSK-Leuk1) or esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (KYSE450) with a saline extract of tobacco smoke, B[a]P or dioxin induced CYP1A1 and CYP1B1 transcription resulting in enhanced levels of message and protein. Inhibitors of HSP90 (17-allylamino-demethoxygeldanamycin, 17-AAG; celastrol) suppressed these inductive effects of PAHs. Treatment with 17-AAG and celastrol also caused a rapid and marked decrease in amounts of AhR protein without modulating levels of HSP90. The formation of B[a]P induced DNA adducts in MSK-Leuk1 cells was inhibited by 17-AAG, celastrol and α-naphthoflavone, a known AhR antagonist. The reduction in B[a]P induced DNA adducts was due, at least in part, to reduced metabolic activation of B[a]P. Collectively, these results suggest that 17-AAG and celastrol, inhibitors of HSP90, suppress the activation of AhR-dependent gene expression leading, in turn, to reduced formation of B[a]P induced DNA adducts. Inhibitors of HSP90 may have a role in chemoprevention in addition to cancer therapy.
PMCID: PMC2680610  PMID: 19138996
Heat Shock Protein 90 Inhibitors; Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor; Tobacco Smoke; Cytochrome P450; DNA adduct
2.  Knockdown of AHR1A but not AHR1B exacerbates PAH and PCB-126 toxicity in zebrafish (Danio rerio) embryos 
Aquatic toxicology (Amsterdam, Netherlands)  2013;0:10.1016/j.aquatox.2013.09.007.
Various environmental contaminants are known agonists for the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR), which is highly conserved across vertebrate species. Due to gene duplication events before and after the divergence of ray- and lobe-finned fishes, many teleosts have multiple AHR isoforms. The zebrafish (Danio rerio) has three identified AHRs: AHR1A and AHR1B, the roles of which are not yet well elucidated, and AHR2, which has been shown to mediate the toxicity of various anthropogenic compounds including dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). In this study, we sought to explore the role of the two AHR1 isoforms in PAH- and PCB-induced toxicity in zebrafish embryos utilizing morpholino gene knockdown of the AHR isoforms. Knockdown of AHR1B did not affect the toxicity of PAH mixtures or PCB-126, whereas knockdown of AHR1A exacerbated the cardiac toxicity caused by PAH mixtures and PCB-126. Knockdown of AHR1A did not impact the mRNA expression of CYP1A, CYP1B1, and CYP1C1 in exposed embryos, but it did result in increased CYP1 activity in exposed embryos. As has been shown previously, knockdown of AHR2 resulted in protection from PAH- and PCB-induced cardiac deformities and prevented CYP1 enzyme activity in exposed embryos. Co-knockdown of AHR1A and AHR2 resulted in an intermediate response compared to knockdown of AHR1A and AHR2 individually; co-knockdown did not exacerbate nor protect from PAH-induced deformities and embryos exhibited an intermediate CYP1 enzyme activity response. In contrast, co-knockdown of AHR1A and AHR2 did protect from PCB-126-induced deformities. These results suggest that AHR1A is not a nonfunctional receptor as previously thought and may play a role in the normal physiology of zebrafish during development and/or the toxicity of environmental contaminants in early life stages.
PMCID: PMC3837554  PMID: 24084256
Aryl hydrocarbon receptor; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon; PCB-126; zebrafish; cardiotoxicity; morpholino
3.  Coal dust alters β-naphthoflavone-induced aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocation in alveolar type II cells 
Many polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can cause DNA adducts and initiate carcinogenesis. Mixed exposures to coal dust (CD) and PAHs are common in occupational settings. In the CD and PAH-exposed lung, CD increases apoptosis and causes alveolar type II (AT-II) cell hyperplasia but reduces CYP1A1 induction. Inflammation, but not apoptosis, appears etiologically associated with reduced CYP1A1 induction in this mixed exposure model. Many AT-II cells in the CD-exposed lungs have no detectable CYP1A1 induction after PAH exposure. Although AT-II cells are a small subfraction of lung cells, they are believed to be a potential progenitor cell for some lung cancers. Because CYP1A1 is induced via ligand-mediated nuclear translocation of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), we investigated the effect of CD on PAH-induced nuclear translocation of AhR in AT-II cells isolated from in vivo-exposed rats. Rats received CD or vehicle (saline) by intratracheal (IT) instillation. Three days before sacrifice, half of the rats in each group started daily intraperitoneal injections of the PAH, β-naphthoflavone (BNF).
Fourteen days after IT CD exposure and 1 day after the last intraperitoneal BNF injection, AhR immunofluorescence indicated that proportional AhR nuclear expression and the percentage of cells with nuclear AhR were significantly increased in rats receiving IT saline and BNF injections compared to vehicle controls. However, in CD-exposed rats, BNF did not significantly alter the nuclear localization or cytosolic expression of AhR compared to rats receiving CD and oil.
Our findings suggest that during particle and PAH mixed exposures, CD alters the BNF-induced nuclear translocation of AhR in AT-II cells. This provides an explanation for the modification of CYP1A1 induction in these cells. Thus, this study suggests that mechanisms for reduced PAH-induced CYP1A1 activity in the CD exposed lung include not only the effects of inflammation on the lung as a whole, but also reduced PAH-associated nuclear translocation of AhR in an expanded population of AT-II cells.
PMCID: PMC2732588  PMID: 19650907
4.  Synergistic induction of AHR regulated genes in developmental toxicity from co-exposure to two model PAHs in zebrafish 
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are pollutants created by the incomplete combustion of carbon, and are increasing in the environment largely due to the burning of fossil fuels. PAHs occur as complex mixtures, and some combinations have been shown to cause synergistic developmental toxicity in fish embryos, characterized by pericardial edema and craniofacial malformations. Previous studies have indicated that in the zebrafish model, this toxicity is mediated by the aryl hydrocarbon receptor 2 (AHR2), and enhanced by inhibition of CYP1A activity. In this study, we further examined this interaction of the model PAH and AHR agonist β-naphthoflavone (BNF) with and without the AHR partial agonist/antagonist and CYP1A inhibitor α-naphthoflavone (ANF) to determine 1) whether ANF was acting as an AHR antagonist, 2) what alterations BNF and ANF both alone and in combination had on mRNA expression of the AHR regulated genes cytochrome P450 (cyp) 1a, 1b1, and 1c1, and the AHR repressor (ahrr2) prior to vs. during deformity onset, and 3) compare CYP1A enzyme activity with mRNA induction. Zebrafish embryos were exposed from 24–48 or 24–96 hpf to BNF, 1–100 μg/L, ANF, 1–150 μg/L, a BNF+ANF co-exposure (1 μg/L + 100 μg/L), or a DMSO solvent control. RNA was extracted and examined by quantitative real time PCR. Both BNF and ANF each individually resulted in a dose dependent increase CYP1A, CYP1B1, CYP1C1, and AHRR2 mRNA, confirming their activities as AHR agonists. In the BNF+ANF co-exposures prior to deformity onset, expression of these genes was synergistic, and expression levels of the AHR regulated genes resembled the higher doses of BNF alone. Gene induction during deformities was also significantly increased in the co-exposure, but to a lesser magnitude than prior to deformity onset. EROD measurements of CYP1A activity showed ANF inhibited activity induction by BNF in the co-exposure group; this finding is not predicted by mRNA expression, which is synergistically induced in this treatment. This suggests that inhibition of CYP1A activity may alter metabolism and/or increase the half-life of the AHR agonist(s), allowing for increased AHR activation. This study furthers a mechanistic understanding of interactions underlying PAH synergistic toxicity.
PMCID: PMC2139898  PMID: 17964672
quantitative real-time PCR; CYP1A; CYP1B1; CYP1C1; AHRR; zebrafish; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; aryl hydrocarbon receptor
5.  Safety, tolerability, and efficacy of endoscopic low-pressure liquid nitrogen spray cryotherapy in the esophagus 
Endoscopic cryotherapy is a new technique for ablation of esophageal dysplasia and neoplasia. Preliminary studies have shown it to be safe and effective for this indication. The objective of this study is to characterize safety, tolerability, and efficacy of low-pressure liquid nitrogen endoscopic spray cryotherapy ablation in a large cohort across multiple study sites. Parallel prospective treatment studies at four tertiary care academic medical centers in the U.S. assessed spray cryotherapy in patients with Barrett’s esophagus with or without dysplasia, early stage esophageal cancer, and severe squamous dysplasia who underwent cryotherapy ablation of the esophagus. All patients were contacted between 1 and 10 days after treatment to assess for side effects and complications of treatment. The main outcome measurement was the incidence of serious adverse events and side effects from treatment. Complete response for high-grade dysplasia (HGD) (CR-HGD), all dysplasia (CR-D), intestinal metaplasia (CR-IM) and cancer (CR-C) were assessed in patients completing therapy during the study period. A total of 77 patients were treated for Barrett’s high-grade dysplasia (58.4%), intramucosal carcinoma (16.9%), invasive carcinoma (13%), Barrett’s esophagus without dysplasia (9.1%), and severe squamous dysplasia (2.6%). Twenty-two patients (28.6%) reported no side effects throughout treatment. In 323 procedures, the most common complaint was chest pain (17.6%) followed by dysphagia (13.3%), odynophagia (12.1%), and sore throat (9.6%). The mean duration of any symptoms was 3.6 days. No side effects were reported in 48% of the procedures (155/323). Symptoms did not correlate with age, gender, diagnosis, or to treatment early versus late in the patient’s or site’s experience. Logit analysis showed that symptoms were greater in those with a Barrett’s segment of 6 cm or longer. Gastric perforation occurred in one patient with Marfan’s syndrome. Esophageal stricture developed in three, all successfully treated with dilation. In 17 HGD patients, cryotherapy produced CR-HGD, CR-D, and CR-IM of 94%, 88%, and 53%, respectively. Complete regression of cancer and HGD was seen in all seven patients with intramucosal carcinoma or stage I esophageal cancer. Endoscopic spray cryotherapy ablation using low-pressure liquid nitrogen in the esophagus is safe, well-tolerated, and efficacious.
PMCID: PMC3144029  PMID: 19515183
Barrett esophagus; catheter ablation; cryosurgery; cryotherapy; esophageal neoplasm; safety
6.  Characterization of the recalcitrant CYP1 phenotype found in Atlantic killifish (Fundulus heteroclitus) inhabiting a Superfund site on the Elizabeth River, VA 
Fundulus heteroclitus (Atlantic killifish) found at the Atlantic Wood Industries Superfund site on the Elizabeth River (ER) in Portsmouth, VA (USA), have been shown to be resistant to the teratogenic effects of creosote-contaminated sediments found at this highly contaminated site. Many of the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) found at the ER are known to activate the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR), and are thought to mediate their toxic effects through this pathway. Activation of the AHR results in the induction of several Phase I and II metabolic enzymes. It has been previously shown that the AHR of killifish from the ER are refractory to induction by AHR agonists. To more fully characterize this altered AHR response, we exposed embryos from the ER and from a reference site on King's Creek, VA (KC) to two PAHs, benzo[α]pyrene (BaP) and benzo[k]fluoranthene (BkF), and to the dioxin-like compound (DLC), 3,3′,4,4′,5-pentachlorobiphenyl (PCB126). We compared their developmental and molecular responses by screening the embryos for CYP1A enzyme activity, cardiac deformities, and mRNA expression of CYP1A, CYP1B1, CYP1C1, and AHR2. Basal gene expression of both CYP1A and CYP1B1 was 40% higher in the KC control embryos compared to those from the ER, while AHR2 and CYP1C1 were not significantly different between the populations. Exposure of KC embryos to BaP, BkF, and PCB126 induced CYP1A activity and cardiac deformities. In contrast, CYP1A activity was induced in ER embryos only in response to BkF exposure, although this induction in ER embryos was significantly lower than that observed in KC fish at comparable concentrations. ER embryos did not develop cardiac deformities in response to any of the chemicals tested. CYP1A, CYP1B1 and CYP1C1 mRNA were all significantly induced in the KC embryos after exposure to BaP, BkF and PCB126. Exposure to BaP and BkF in ER embryos resulted in a significant induction of CYP1A mRNA, albeit significantly lower than observed in KC fish. Interestingly, BaP exposure resulted in induction of CYP1B1 at comparable levels in embryos from both populations. CYP1s were not induced in ER embryos in response to PCB126, nor was CYP1C1 for any treatment examined. Additionally, AHR2 was not significantly induced for any of the treatment groups. This study further characterizes the AHR response in killifish, and provides greater insight into the adapted ER phenotype. The ER adaptation involves the suppression of normal AHR-inducible gene expression for all three CYP1 genes, and therefore is likely an alteration in AHR signaling or control.
PMCID: PMC2883677  PMID: 20471113
Fundulus heteroclitus; Elizabeth River; cytochrome P450-1; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon; Benzo[a]pyrene; benzo[k]fluoranthene; 3,3′,4,4′,5-pentachlorobiphenyl
7.  Effect based monitoring of seasonal ambient air exposures in Australia sampled by PUF passive air samplers 
There has been relatively little bioanalytical effect based monitoring conducted using samples derived from polyurethane foam (PUF) passive air samplers. Combining these techniques may provide a more convenient and cost effective means of monitoring the potential for biological effects resulting from exposure to complex mixtures in a range of scenarios. Seasonal polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) levels were monitored at sites around Australia using direct chemical analysis. In addition, both indirect acting genotoxicity (umuC assay) and aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) activity (chemically activated fluorescent gene expression [CAFLUX assay]), which are effects potentially relevant to subsequent carcinogenesis for these compounds, were measured. The levels of PAHs as well as genotoxicity and AhR activity were all higher in winter compared to summer and for sites in urban capital cities compared to other locations. Statistically significant relationships were found between the levels of PAHs and both genotoxicity and AhR activity. The dominant contributors to the total AhR activity, were found to be for compounds which are not resistant to H2SO4/silica gel treatment and were relatively rapidly metabolised that is consistent with a PAH type response. Relative potency estimates for individual PAHs determined for the first time on the CAFLUX assay were used to estimate the proportion of total AhR activity (≤ 3.0%) accounted by PAHs monitored. Observed responses are thus largely due to non-quantified AhR active compounds.
PMCID: PMC3087176  PMID: 21552507
Passive air sampling; Polyurethane foam (PUF); Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; Aryl hydrocarbon receptor activity; Genotoxicity
8.  Relationship between ambient air pollution and DNA damage in Polish mothers and newborns. 
Environmental Health Perspectives  1998;106(Suppl 3):821-826.
Industrialized regions in Poland are characterized by high ambient pollution, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from coal burning for industry and home heating. In experimental bioassays, certain PAHs are transplacental carcinogens and developmental toxicants. Biologic markers can facilitate evaluation of effects of environmental PAHs on the developing infant. We measured the amount of PAHs bound to DNA (PAH-DNA adducts) in maternal and umbilical white blood cells. The cohort consisted of 70 mothers and newborns from Krakow, Poland, an industrialized city with elevated air pollution. Modulation of adduct levels by genotypes previously linked to risk of lung cancer, specifically glutathione S-transferase MI (GSTM1) and cytochrome P4501A1 (CYP1A1) Msp restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP), was also investigated. There was a dose-related increase in maternal and newborn adduct levels with ambient pollution at the women's place of residence among subjects who were not employed away from home (p < or = 0.05). Maternal smoking (active and passive) significantly increased maternal (p < or = 0.01) but not newborn adduct levels. Neither CYP1A1 Msp nor GSTM1 polymorphisms was associated with maternal adducts. However, adducts were significantly higher in newborns heterozygous or homozygous for the CYP1A1 Msp RFLP compared to newborns without the RFLP (p = 0.04). Results indicate that PAH-induced DNA damage in mothers and newborns is increased by ambient air pollution. In the fetus, this damage appears to be enhanced by the CYP1A1 Mspl polymorphism.
PMCID: PMC1533078  PMID: 9646044
9.  Assessing indoor air exposures using passive sampling with bioanalytical methods for estrogenicity and aryl hydrocarbon receptor activity 
Analytical and bioanalytical chemistry  2009;394(5):1413-1421.
Passive air sampling was undertaken using polyurethane foam passive air samplers at three types of locations, including indoors (six offices) at buildings in the central business district (CBD) and at a private suburban home (indoor and outdoor) located 9 km from the CBD in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Estrogenic (E-SCREEN—MCF7-BOS) and aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) (CAFLUX— H4G1.1c2) activity were assessed for samples collected from each of these locations. The samples were tested either as crude extracts (“untreated”) or were subjected to H2SO4 silica gel (“treated”) for each location in order to determine whether chemicals, which are not resistant to this treatment like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, potentially account for the observed activity. In most cases, H2SO4 treatment resulted in a statistically significant reduction of potency for both endpoints, suggesting that chemicals less resistant to treatment may be responsible for much of the detected biological activity in these locations. Estrogenic potency measurements (<0.22–185 pg m−3) were highest in the indoor offices, followed by the indoor suburban home and finally the outdoor suburban home (which was not estrogenic). Total AhR activity for crude extracts (1.3–10 pg m−3) however was highest for the outdoor suburban home site. Levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons were monitored indoors and outdoors at the suburban home. At that location, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon air concentrations were on average approximately two times higher outdoor than indoor, while AhR potency was five times higher outdoor than indoor. No significant correlation was found between the estrogenic and AhR activity (P=0.88) for the sites in this study.
PMCID: PMC2864012  PMID: 19430962
Arylhydrocarbon receptor activity; Estrogenicity; Bioanalytical methods; Indoor air; Passive air sampling
10.  Knockdown of aberrantly upregulated aryl hydrocarbon receptor reduces tumor growth and metastasis of MDA-MB-231 human breast cancer cell line 
The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), a ligand-activated transcription factor that belongs to the basic-helix-loop-helix (bHLH)–Per-ARNT-Sim (PAS) superfamily of transcription factors, mediates toxic response induced by environmental chemicals such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). AhR is expressed at high levels in several human breast carcinoma cell lines in direct correlation with the degree of their malignancy. Recent studies suggest a possible role for AhR in cancer independent of PAH. Therefore, we established stable AhR knockdown cells of the human breast cancer cell line MDA-MB-231 and analyzed their tumorigenic properties in in vitro and in vivo model systems. In addition we analyzed their response to radiation and chemotherapeutic treatment. AhR knockdown attenuated these cells tumorigenic properties in vitro including proliferation, anchorage independent growth, migration and apoptosis and reduced orthotopic xenograft tumor growth and lung metastasis in vivo. Notably, we observed that AhR knockdown enhanced radiation-induced apoptosis as well as significantly decreased cell clonogenic survival. Furthermore, AhR knockdown in MDA-MB-231 cells sensitized them to paclitaxel treatment, evident by a decrease in the required cytotoxic dose. Subsequent analysis revealed AhR knockdown significantly reduced phosphorylation of AKT, which impacts cell proliferation and survival. Apoptosis-focused gene expression analyses revealed an altered expression of genes regulating apoptosis in MDA-MB-231 cells. Collectively, our data identify AhR as a potential novel therapeutic target in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3797219  PMID: 23733406
breast cancer; AhR knockdown; cell proliferation; apoptosis; bioluminescence imaging
11.  AhR and Arnt differentially regulate NF-κB signaling and chemokine responses in human bronchial epithelial cells 
The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) has gradually emerged as a regulator of inflammation in the lung and other tissues. AhR may interact with the p65-subunit of the nuclear factor (NF)-κB transcription factors, but reported outcomes of AhR/NF-κB-interactions are conflicting. Some studies suggest that AhR possess pro-inflammatory activities while others suggest that AhR may be anti-inflammatory. The present study explored the impact of AhR and its binding partner AhR nuclear translocator (Arnt) on p65-activation and two differentially regulated chemokines, CXCL8 (IL-8) and CCL5 (RANTES), in human bronchial epithelial cells (BEAS-2B).
Cells were exposed to CXCL8- and CCL5-inducing chemicals, 1-nitropyrene (1-NP) and 1-aminopyrene (1-AP) respectively, or the synthetic double-stranded RNA analogue, polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid (Poly I:C) which induced both chemokines. Only CXCL8, and not CCL5, appeared to be p65-dependent. Yet, constitutively active unligated AhR suppressed both CXCL8 and CCL5, as shown by siRNA knock-down and the AhR antagonist α-naphthoflavone. Moreover, AhR suppressed activation of p65 by TNF-α and Poly I:C as assessed by luciferase-assay and p65-phosphorylation at serine 536, without affecting basal p65-activity. In contrast, Arnt suppressed only CXCL8, but did not prevent the p65-activation directly. However, Arnt suppressed expression of the NF-κB-subunit RelB which is under transcriptional regulation by p65. Furthermore, AhR-ligands alone at high concentrations induced a moderate CXCL8-response, without affecting CCL5, but suppressed both CXCL8 and CCL5-responses by Poly I:C.
AhR and Arnt may differentially and independently regulate chemokine-responses induced by both inhaled pollutants and pulmonary infections. Constitutively active, unligated AhR suppressed the activation of p65, while Arnt may possibly interfere with the action of activated p65. Moreover, ligand-activated AhR suppressed CXCL8 and CCL5 responses by other agents, but AhR ligands alone induced CXCL8 responses when given at sufficiently high concentrations, thus underscoring the duality of AhR in regulation of inflammation. We propose that AhR-signaling may be a weak activator of p65-signaling that suppresses p65-activity induced by strong activators of NF-κB, but that its anti-inflammatory properties also are due to interference with additional pathways.
PMCID: PMC4222560  PMID: 25201625
Aryl hydrocarbon receptor; AhR nuclear translocator; interleukin-8; RANTES; Nuclear factor NF-κB; p65; RelB; Inflammation; Lung epithelial cells
12.  Malignant Transformation of Mammary Epithelial Cells by Ectopic Overexpression of the Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor 
Current cancer drug targets  2011;11(5):654-669.
The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) is a ligand activated basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor that binds to environmental poly aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and mediates their toxic and carcinogenic responses. There is ample documentation for the role of AhR in PAH-induced carcinogenicity. However, in this report we addressed whether overexpression of AhR alone is sufficient to induce carcinogenic transformation in human mammary epithelial cells (HMEC). Retroviral expression vectors were used to develop a series of stable cell lines expressing varying levels of AhR protein in an immortalized normal HMEC with relatively low endogenous AhR expression. The resulted increase in AhR expression and activity correlated with the development of cellular malignant phenotypes, most significantly epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition. Clones overexpressing AhR by more than 3-fold, exhibited a 50% decrease in population doubling time. Cell cycle analysis revealed that this increase in proliferation rates was due to an enhanced cell cycle progression by increasing the percentage of cells transiting into S- and G2/M phases. Cells overexpressing AhR exhibited enhanced motility and migration. Importantly, these cells acquired the ability to invade matrigel matrix, where more than 80% of plated cells invaded the matrigel matrix within 24 h, whereas none of parental or the vector control HMEC were able to invade matrigel. Collectively, these data provide evidence for a direct role of AhR in the progression of breast carcinoma. The results suggest a novel therapeutic target that could be considered for treatment and prevention of breast cancer progression.
PMCID: PMC4070443  PMID: 21486221
aryl hydrocarbon receptor; ectopic overexpression; mammary epithelia; transformation; breast cancer; progression
13.  Carnosol, a Constituent of Zyflamend, Inhibits Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor-Mediated Activation of CYP1A1 and CYP1B1 Transcription and Mutagenesis 
The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), a ligand-activated member of the basic-helix-loop-helix family of transcription factors, plays a significant role in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) induced carcinogenesis. In the upper aerodigestive tract of humans, tobacco smoke, a source of PAHs, activates the AhR leading to increased expression of CYP1A1 and CYP1B1, which encode proteins that convert PAHs to genotoxic metabolites. Inhibitors of Hsp90 ATPase cause a rapid decrease in levels of AhR, an Hsp90 client protein, and thereby block PAH-mediated induction of CYP1A1 and CYP1B1. The main objective of this study was to determine whether Zyflamend, a polyherbal preparation, suppressed PAH-mediated induction of CYP1A1 and CYP1B1 and inhibited DNA adduct formation and mutagenesis. We also investigated whether carnosol, one of multiple phenolic antioxidants in Zyflamend, had similar inhibitory effects. Treatment of cell lines derived from oral leukoplakia (MSK-Leuk1) and skin (HaCaT) with benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P), a prototypic PAH, induced CYP1A1 and CYP1B1 transcription, resulting in enhanced levels of message and protein. Both Zyflamend and carnosol suppressed these effects of B[a]P. Notably, both Zyflamend and carnosol inhibited Hsp90 ATPase activity and caused a rapid reduction in AhR levels. The formation of B[a]P induced DNA adducts and mutagenesis were also inhibited by Zyflamend and carnosol. Collectively, these results show that Zyflamend and carnosol inhibit Hsp90 ATPase leading to reduced levels of AhR, suppression of B[a]P-mediated induction of CYP1A1 and CYP1B1 and inhibition of mutagenesis. Carnosol-mediated inhibition of Hsp90 ATPase activity can help explain the chemopreventive activity of herbs such as Rosemary, which contain this phenolic antioxidant.
PMCID: PMC3324618  PMID: 22374940
14.  Gastroscopy following a positive fecal occult blood test and negative colonoscopy: Systematic review and guideline 
A sizeable number of individuals who participate in population-based colorectal cancer (CRC) screening programs and have a positive fecal occult blood test (FOBT) do not have an identifiable lesion found at colonoscopy to account for their positive FOBT screen.
To evaluate the evidence and provide recommendations regarding the use of routine esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) to detect upper gastrointestinal (UGI) cancers in patients participating in a population-based CRC screening program who are FOBT positive and colonoscopy negative.
A systematic review was used to develop the evidentiary base and to inform the evidence-based recommendations provided.
Nine studies identified a group of patients who were FOBT positive and colonoscopy negative. Three studies found no cases of UGI cancer. Four studies reported cases of UGI cancer; three found UGI cancer in 1% or less of the population studied, and one study found one case of UGI cancer that represented 7% of their small subgroup of FOBT-positive/colonoscopy-negative patients. Two studies did not provide outcome information that could be specifically related to the FOBT-positive/colonoscopy-negative subgroup.
The current body of evidence is insufficient to recommend for or against routine EGD as a means of detecting gastric or esophageal cancers for patients who are FOBT positive/colonoscopy negative, in a population-based CRC screening program. The decision to perform EGD should be individualized and based on clinical judgement.
PMCID: PMC2852233  PMID: 20151070
Colonoscopy; Esophagogastroduodenoscopy; Fecal occult blood test; Mass screening; Systematic review; Upper gastrointestinal cancer
15.  CH223191 Is a Ligand-Selective Antagonist of the Ah (Dioxin) Receptor 
Toxicological Sciences  2010;117(2):393-403.
The aryl hydrocarbon (dioxin) receptor (AhR) is a ligand-dependent transcription factor that produces a wide range of biological and toxic effects in many species and tissues. Whereas the best-characterized high-affinity ligands include structurally related halogenated aromatic hydrocarbons (HAHs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), the AhR is promiscuous and can also be activated by structurally diverse exogenous and endogenous chemicals. However, little is known about how these diverse ligands actually bind to and activate the AhR. Utilizing AhR ligand binding, DNA binding, and reporter gene expression assays, we have identified a novel ligand-selective antagonist (CH223191) that preferentially inhibits the ability of some classes of AhR agonists (2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin and related HAHs), but not others (PAHs, flavonoids, or indirubin), to bind to and/or activate the AhR and AhR signal transduction. HAH-specific antagonism of AhR-dependent reporter gene expression by CH223191 was observed with mouse, rat, human, and guinea pig cell lines. Ligand- and species-selective antagonism was also observed with the AhR antagonists 3′-methoxy-4′-nitroflavone and 6,2′,4′,-trimethoxyflavone. Our results suggest that the differences in the binding by various ligands to the AhR contribute to the observed structural diversity of AhR ligands and could contribute in ligand-specific variation in AhR functionality and the toxic and biological effects of various classes of AhR agonists.
PMCID: PMC2940411  PMID: 20634293
2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin; TCDD; Ah receptor; beta-naphthoflavone; CH223191
16.  The Changing Pattern of Upper Gastro-Intestinal Lesions in Southern Saudi Arabia: An Endoscopic Study 
Dyspepsia is a common gastrointestinal disorder and is the most common indication for upper gastrointestinal endoscopy (UGIE). In recent years, it has been observed in several centers that there is a change in the causes of dyspepsia as revealed by UGIE. Our main objectives were: (1) To study the pattern of upper gastrointestinal pathology in patients with dyspepsia undergoing upper endoscopy; (2) Compare that with the pattern seen 10-15 years earlier in different areas of KSA.
Patients and Methods:
Retrospective study of all UGI endoscopies performed at Aseer Central Hospital, Abha, Southern Saudi Arabia during the years 2005-2007 on patients above 13 years of age. Patients who underwent UGIE for reasons other than dyspepsia were excluded. The analysis was performed using the SPSS 14 statistical package.
A total of 1,607 patients underwent UGI endoscopy during the three-year study period (age range, 15-100). There were 907 males (56.4%) and 700 female (43.6%). Normal findings were reported on 215 patients (14%) and the majority had gastritis (676 = 42%), of whom 344 had gastritis with ulcer disease. Moreover, 242 patients (15%) had gastro-esophageal reflux (GERD), with or without esophagitis or hiatus hernia. Also, a total of 243 patients had duodenal ulcer (DU) (15%) while only 12 had gastric ulcer (0.7%).
Discussion and Conclusion:
There is clear change in the frequency of UGIE lesions detected recently compared to a decade ago with an increasing prevalence of reflux esophagitis and hiatus hernia. This could be attributed to changes in lifestyle and dietary habits such as more consumption of fat and fast food, increased prevalence of obesity, and smoking. These problems should be addressed in order to minimize the serious complications of esophageal diseases.
PMCID: PMC3023100  PMID: 20065572
Dyspepsia; endoscopy; lesions; esophageal disease
17.  The Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Meets Immunology: Friend or Foe? A Little of Both 
The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) has long been studied by toxicologists as a ligand-activated transcription factor that is activated by dioxin and other environmental pollutants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The hallmark of AHR activation is the upregulation of the cytochrome P450 enzymes that metabolize many of these toxic compounds. However, recent findings demonstrate that both exogenous and endogenous AHR ligands can alter innate and adaptive immune responses including effects on T-cell differentiation. Kynurenine, a tryptophan breakdown product, is one such endogenous ligand of the AHR. Expression of indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase by dendritic cells causes accumulation of kynurenine and results in subsequent tolerogenic effects including increased regulatory T-cell activity. At the same time, PAHs found in pollution enhance Th17 differentiation in the lungs of exposed mice via the AHR. In this perspective, we will discuss the importance of the AHR in the immune system and the role this might play in normal physiology and response to disease.
PMCID: PMC4183121  PMID: 25324842
indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase; Th17 Cells; Treg cells; immunomodulation; kynurenine; aryl hydrocarbon receptor
18.  Induction of carbonyl reductase 1 (CBR1) expression in human lung tissues and lung cancer cells by the cigarette smoke constituent benzo[a]pyrene 
Toxicology Letters  2012;211(3):266-273.
Carbonyl reductase 1 (CBR1) reduces various xenobiotic carbonyl substrates to corresponding alcohol metabolites. Here we demonstrated that benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P), a potent pro-carcinogen and predominant polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) compound in cigarette smoke and air pollutants, upregulates CBR1 gene expression in vitro and in vivo, and that a proximal xenobiotic response elements (XRE) motif (−122XRE) mediates the induction effect of B[a]P. First, we observed 46% and 50% increases in CBR1 mRNA and CBR1 protein levels, respectively, in human lung tissue samples from smokers compared to never-smokers. Second, we detected 3.0-fold (p < 0.0001) induction of CBR1 mRNA and 1.5-fold (p < 0.01) induction of CBR1 protein levels in cells of the human lung cancer cell line A549 incubated with 2.5µM B[a]P for 24 hours. Third, results from experiments with CBR1 promoter constructs indicated that a proximal XRE motif (−122XRE) mediates induction of reporter activity in response to B[a]P. Furthermore, we detected enhanced nuclear translocation of aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) following B[a]P exposure in A549 cells. Finally, we demonstrated increased binding of specific protein complexes to −122XRE in nuclear extracts from B[a]P-treated cells and the presence of the AhR/Arnt complex in the specific nuclear protein−122XRE complexes.
PMCID: PMC3359411  PMID: 22531821
Human Carbonyl Reductase 1 (CBR1); benzo[a]pyrene; cigarette smoke metabolism
19.  Persistent Binding of Ligands to the Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor 
The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) is a ligand-activated transcription factor that mediates many of the biological and toxic effects of halogenated aromatic hydrocarbons (HAHs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and other structurally diverse ligands. While HAHs are several orders of magnitude more potent in producing AhR-dependent biochemical effects than PAHs or other AhR agonists, only the HAHs have been observed to produce AhR-dependent toxicity in vivo. Here we have characterized the dissociation of a prototypical HAH ligand ([3H] 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin [TCDD]) and PAH-like ligand ([3H] β-naphthoflavone [βNF]) from the guinea pig, hamster, mouse, and rat hepatic cytosolic AhR in order to elucidate the relationship between the apparent ligand-binding affinities and the divergent potency of these chemicals. Both compounds dissociated very slowly from the AhR with the amount of specific binding remaining at 96 h ranging from 53% to 70% for [3H]TCDD and 26% to 85% for [3H] βNF, depending upon the species examined. The rate of ligand dissociation was unaffected by protein concentration or incubation temperature. Preincubation of cytosol with 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzofuran, carbaryl, or primaquine, prior to the addition of [3H]TCDD, shifted the apparent IC50 of these compounds as competitive AhR ligands by ∼10- to 50-fold. Our results support the need for reassessment of previous AhR ligand-binding affinity calculations and competitive binding analysis since these measurements are not carried out at equilibrium binding conditions. Our studies suggest that AhR binding affinity/occupancy has little effect on the observed differences in the persistence of gene expression by HAHs and PAHs.
PMCID: PMC2857992  PMID: 17431010
Ah receptor; 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin; TCDD; β-naphthoflavone
20.  The aryl hydrocarbon receptor is required for optimal resistance to Listeria monocytogenes infection in mice 
The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) is part of a powerful signaling system that is triggered by xenobiotic agents such as polychlorinated hydrocarbons (PCHs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Although activation of the AhR by 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) or certain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can lead to immunosuppression, there is also increasing evidence that the AhR regulates certain normal developmental processes. In this study, we asked whether the AhR plays a role in host resistance using murine listeriosis as an experimental system. Our data clearly demonstrate that AhR null C57BL/6J mice (AhR−/−) are more susceptible to listeriosis than AhR heterozygous (AhR+/−) littermates when inoculated i.v. with log-phase L. monocytogenes. AhR−/− mice exhibited greater numbers of CFU of L. monocytogenes in the spleen and liver, and greater histopathological changes in the liver than AhR+/− mice. Serum levels of IL-6, MCP-1, IFN-γ, and TNF-α were comparable between L. monocytogenes-infected AhR−/− and AhR+/− mice. Increased levels of IL-12 and IL-10 were observed in L. monocytogenes-infected AhR−/− mice. No significant difference was found between AhR+/− and AhR−/− macrophages ex vivo with regard to their ability to ingest and inhibit intracellular growth of L. monocytogenes. Intracellular cytokine staining of CD4+ and CD8+ splenocytes for IFN-γ and TNF-α revealed comparable T-cell mediated responses in AhR−/− and AhR+/− mice. Previously infected AhR−/− and AhR+/− mice both exhibited enhanced resistance to reinfection with L. monocytogenes. These data provide the first evidence that AhR is required for optimal resistance, but is not essential for adaptive immune response to L. monocytogenes infection.
PMCID: PMC2701311  PMID: 17982086
aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR); L. monocytogenes; innate immunity; adaptive immunity
21.  Genomic and physiological responses to strong selective pressure during late organogenesis: few gene expression changes found despite striking morphological differences 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:779.
Adaptations to a new environment, such as a polluted one, often involve large modifications of the existing phenotypes. Changes in gene expression and regulation during critical developmental stages may explain these phenotypic changes. Embryos from a population of the teleost fish, Fundulus heteroclitus, inhabiting a clean estuary do not survive when exposed to sediment extract from a site highly contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) while embryos derived from a population inhabiting a PAH polluted estuary are remarkably resistant to the polluted sediment extract. We exposed embryos from these two populations to surrogate model PAHs and analyzed changes in gene expression, morphology, and cardiac physiology in order to better understand sensitivity and adaptive resistance mechanisms mediating PAH exposure during development.
The synergistic effects of two model PAHs, an aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) agonist (β-naphthoflavone) and a cytochrome P4501A (CYP1A) inhibitor (α-naphthoflavone), caused significant developmental delays, impaired cardiac function, severe morphological alterations and failure to hatch, leading to the deaths of reference embryos; resistant embryos were mostly unaffected. Unexpectedly, patterns of gene expression among normal and moderately deformed embryos were similar, and only severely deformed embryos showed a contrasting pattern of gene expression. Given the drastic morphological differences between reference and resistant embryos, a surprisingly low percentage of genes, 2.24% of 6,754 analyzed, show statistically significant differences in transcript levels during late organogenesis between the two embryo populations.
Our study demonstrates important contrasts in responses between reference and resistant natural embryo populations to synergistic effects of surrogate model PAHs that may be important in adaptive mechanisms mediating PAH effects during fish embryo development. These results suggest that statistically significant changes in gene expression of relatively few genes contribute to the phenotypic changes and large morphological differences exhibited by reference and resistant populations upon exposure to PAH pollutants. By correlating cardiac physiology and morphology with changes in gene expression patterns of reference and resistant embryos, we provide additional evidence for acquired resistance among embryos whose parents live at heavily contaminated sites.
PMCID: PMC3835409  PMID: 24215130
Development; Genomics; Embryos; Adaptation; Evolution; Fish; Transcriptomics
22.  Structurally distinct polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons induce differential transcriptional responses in developing zebrafish 
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2013;272(3):656-670.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are ubiquitous in the environment as components of fossil fuels and by-products of combustion. These multi-ring chemicals differentially activate the Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor (AHR) in a structurally dependent manner, and induce toxicity via both AHR-dependent and-independent mechanisms. PAH exposure is known to induce developmental malformations in zebrafish embryos, and recent studies have shown cardiac toxicity induced by compounds with low AHR affinity. Unraveling the potentially diverse molecular mechanisms of PAH toxicity is essential for understanding the hazard posed by complex PAH mixtures present in the environment. We analyzed transcriptional responses to PAH exposure in zebrafish embryos exposed to benz(a)anthracene (BAA), dibenzothiophene (DBT) and pyrene (PYR) at concentrations that induced developmental malformations by 120 hours post-fertilization (hpf). Whole genome microarray analysis of mRNA expression at 24 and 48 hpf identified genes that were differentially regulated over time and in response to the three PAH structures. PAH body burdens were analyzed at both time points using GC-MS, and demonstrated differences in PAH uptake into the embryos. This was important for discerning dose-related differences from those that represented unique molecular mechanisms. While BAA misregulated the least number of transcripts, it caused strong induction of cyp1a and other genes known to be downstream of the AHR, which were not induced by the other two PAHs. Analysis of functional roles of misregulated genes and their predicted regulatory transcription factors also distinguished the BAA response from regulatory networks disrupted by DBT and PYR exposure. These results indicate that systems approaches can be used to classify the toxicity of PAHs based on the networks perturbed following exposure, and may provide a path for unraveling the toxicity of complex PAH mixtures.
PMCID: PMC4098828  PMID: 23656968
toxicity; AHR; microarray; dibenzothiophene; pyrene; benz(a)anthracene; network analysis
23.  AHR2 mediates cardiac teratogenesis of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and PCB-126 in Atlantic killifish (Fundulus heteroclitus) 
Exposure of developing fish to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and halogenated aromatic hydrocarbons (HAHs) results in a suite of defects including cardiac malformation, pericardial and yolk sac edema, craniofacial defects, and hemorrhaging. Several populations of Atlantic killifish or mummichog (Fundulus heteroclitus) on the Atlantic coast of the United States are resistant to the developmental and acute toxicity caused by PAHs and HAHs; this has made Fundulus a valuable model for studying aryl hydrocarbon sensitivity and adaptation. In order to further increase the utility of Fundulus, better understanding of the components of the molecular pathways governing aryl hydrocarbon response in Fundulus is required. The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) is known to mediate many of the toxic responses to PAHs and HAHs. A single AHR has been identified in mammals, but Fundulus has two AHRs and their relative roles are not clear. In the current study, translation-blocking and splice-junction morpholino gene knockdown was used to determine the roles of AHR1 and AHR2 in mediating cardiac teratogenesis induced by β-naphthoflavone (BNF), benzo[k]fluoranthene (BkF), and 3, 3′, 4, 4′, 5-pentachlorobiphenyl (PCB-126). Here we report that AHR2 and not AHR1 knockdown resulted in rescue of teratogenicity induced by BNF, BkF, and PCB-126. These data demonstrate that AHR2 is the primary mediator of cardiac teratogenesis caused by multiple aryl hydrocarbons in Fundulus and suggest that suppression of the AHR pathway through modulation of AHR2 is a plausible mechanism for PAH resistance in adapted fish. Additionally, this is the first reported use of splice-junction morpholinos in Fundulus.
PMCID: PMC2901414  PMID: 20605646
aryl hydrocarbon receptor; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon; PCB-126; morpholino; Fundulus heteroclitus; adaptation
24.  Transgenic Humanized AHR Mouse Reveals Differences between Human and Mouse AHR Ligand Selectivity 
The Aryl-hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) is a ligand activated transcription factor involved in xenobiotic metabolism. Most of the toxic effects of halogenated and non-halogenated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (HAHs and PAHs respectively) are mediated by the AHR. For the AHR, a number of intra and interspecies differences exist in terms of responsiveness to the prototypical AHR ligand 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). Interspecies differences in AHR ligand binding affinity has been shown to be linked to contrasting TCDD tolerance between species and among inbred strains of mice expressing different AHR alleles. Compared to the human AHR (hAHR), the mouse AHRb (mAHRb) has a ~10 fold higher affinity for typical AHR ligands. Using a transgenic humanized mouse model that expresses hAHR protein specifically in the liver, we have discovered that for certain ligands, such as indirubin, the hAHR exhibits higher relative ligand binding affinity and responsiveness compared to the mAHRb. These findings may potentially influence the ongoing search for endogenous hAHR ligands and expand our understanding of the unique physiological role of the hAHR.
PMCID: PMC2858462  PMID: 20419055
Aryl-hydrocarbon receptor; AHR ligands; Indirubin; TCDD; Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
25.  Fundulus heteroclitus adapted to PAHs are cross-resistant to multiple insecticides 
Ecotoxicology (London, England)  2011;21(2):465-474.
Atlantic killifish (Fundulus heteroclitus) from the Atlantic Wood Superfund site on the Elizabeth River (ER), VA are dramatically resistant to the acute toxicity and teratogenesis caused by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). To understand the consequences of adaptation to chronic PAH pollution, we have attempted to further define the chemical tolerance associated with this resistance. An important component of the PAH adaptation of ER fish is the dramatic down-regulation of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) pathway, resulting in decreased cytochrome p450 (CYP) 1 activity. Herein, we compared the susceptibility to several insecticides of ER fish to that of reference site fish; use of these chemicals as probes of the resistance will help to demonstrate if the contaminant adaptation exhibited by ER fish is broad or narrow and AHR-focused. We hypothesized that ER fish would be less susceptible to the organophosphate chlorpyrifos (activated by CYP) and more susceptible to the pyrethroid permethrin (detoxified by CYP). Comparison of acute toxicity in 5-day-old larvae supported this hypothesis for chlorpyrifos. As expected in KC, chemical up-regulation of CYP by co-exposure to β-naphthoflavone (BNF) enhanced the susceptibility of KC but it did not affect ER larvae. Unexpectedly, ER larvae were much less susceptible to permethrin than KC larvae. However, co-exposure to BNF greatly decreased the susceptibility of KC larvae, indicating that metabolism of permethrin by CYP was protective. Additionally, fish from each population were compared for susceptibility to the carbamate carbaryl, an acute neurotoxicant and weak AHR agonist that induces teratogenesis similar to that caused by PAHs. ER embryos and larvae were less susceptible than KC fish. These results suggest that the adaptive phenotype of ER fish is multi-faceted and that aspects other than CYP response are likely to greatly affect their response to contaminants.
PMCID: PMC3278525  PMID: 22037695
Fundulus heteroclitus; adaptation; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon; pesticides; Elizabeth River

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