Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology, Vol 1, No 3 (2009)

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Transgenic Humanized AHR Mouse Reveals Differences between Human and Mouse AHR Ligand Selectivity

Colin A. Flaveny, Gary H. Perdew


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.

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