The activation of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) occurs through the binding of dioxin-like compounds (DLCs) or natural ligands. In this pathway, the AHR-ARNT (AHR nuclear translocator) heterodimer serves to regulate critical physiological functions, such as immune responses and the metabolism of xenobiotics. Birds have three AHR isoforms (AHR1, AHR1β, and AHR2) and two ARNT isoforms (ARNT1 and ARNT2). However, how AHR and ARNT dimerization pair in birds regulates the AHR signaling pathway in an isoform-specific manner remains unknown. In this study, we initially sought to clarify the major chicken AHR-ARNT (ckAHR-ckARNT) pairs by estimating the mRNA tissue distributions of various ckAHR and ckARNT isoforms. Our results indicated that the ckAHR1-ckARNT1 represented the major dimerization pair in most tissues except the brain. We then measured the transactivation potencies of various ckAHR-ckARNT pairs by natural ligands and 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), in in vitro reporter gene assays using COS-7 and LMH cell lines. Our results from the in vitro assays demonstrated that the ckAHR1-ckARNT1 pair was strongly activated by the five natural ligands, namely, 6-formylindolo [3,2-b]carbazole, L-kynurenin, kynurenic acid, indoxyl-3-sulfate, and 1,3,7-tribromodibenzo-p-dioxin, but not by TCDD. In in silico ligand docking simulations with ckAHR1 homology models, all the natural ligands showed a interaction pattern that was distinct from that observed with anthropogenic DLCs, including TCDD. In conclusion, our findings indicate that the ckAHR1-ckARNT1 may be the most important dimerization pair in most tissues for regulating the physiological functions driven by natural ligands, although it was less reactive to TCDD.
By Dong-Hee Koh, Ji-Hee Hwang, Jae-Gon Park, Woo-Seon Song, Hisato Iwata, Eun-Young Kim