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Cancer Res. 2004 Jan 1;64(1):429-34.

The drug salicylamide is an antagonist of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor that inhibits signal transduction induced by 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin.

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Cellular Defense and Carcinogenesis Section, Basic Research Laboratory, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute-Frederick, NIH, Frederick, Maryland 21702-1201, USA.


2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) is a widespread environmental contaminant, that has been linked with a variety of deleterious effects on human health, including increased cancer rates and reproductive anomalies. The detrimental effects of TCDD are mediated via the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), a transcription factor that regulates the expression of the carcinogen-activating enzymes cytochromes P-450 (CYP) 1A1, 1A2, and 1B1. In the present study, we examined the ability of synthetic derivatives of salicylic acid to affect TCDD-stimulated AhR-mediated signal transduction in human hepatoma HepG2 cells. Salicylamide (SAL), an analgesic drug, caused a potent and long-lasting inhibition of TCDD-induced CYP enzyme activity. Acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) and the naturally occurring phytochemical salicylic acid had no effect on CYP activity. SAL inhibited the increase in CYP1A1, -1A2, and -1B1 mRNA levels that occurs on exposure to TCDD. TCDD-induced transcription of these genes was also inhibited by SAL, but not by aspirin or salicylic acid, as demonstrated by luciferase reporter assays. The transcription of the CYP1 family of genes is regulated by the interaction of TCDD-activated AhR with the xenobiotic-responsive element present in the promoter regions of these genes. As shown by electrophoretic mobility shift assay, SAL completely blocked the binding of TCDD-activated AhR to the xenobiotic responsive element. Also, SAL substantially blocked the binding of TCDD to the cytosolic AhR. These results demonstrate that SAL, a commonly used analgesic, is a potent inhibitor of AhR-mediated signal transduction, and may be an effective agent in the prevention of TCDD-associated disease.

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