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Toxicol Sci. 2004 Jul;80(1):161-9. Epub 2004 Mar 31.

Comparison of gene expression patterns between 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin and a natural arylhydrocarbon receptor ligand, indirubin.

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Department of Technology and Ecology, Graduate School of Global Environmental Studies, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan.


Indirubin is a natural arylhydrocarbon receptor (AhR) ligand isolated from human urine. We previously reported that it was more potent than the prototypical ligand, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) in a yeast assay system. Here we compared gene expression changes in HepG2 cells exposed to 10 nM of indirubin or TCDD using nylon-membrane-based cDNA arrays with 1176 genes to elucidate the toxic differences at the transcriptional level. The gene expression profiles for TCDD and indirubin were very similar. The number of up-regulated genes (fold change > or =2.0) was 11 and 4 and the number of down-regulated genes (fold change < or =0.5) was 17 and 21 in TCDD-treated and indirubin-treated cells, respectively. Cytochrome P450 (CYP) 1A1, 1A2, 19A1, insulin-like growth factor binding protein 1 (IGFBP1), and IGFBP10 were confirmed to be up-regulated using real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. CYP1A1 and CYP1A2 mRNAs were induced by as little as 1 pM of indirubin, whereas they were not induced by 10 pM of TCDD. In the time-course experiment, CYP1A1 mRNA was induced by indirubin transiently. Indirubin was also metabolized by CYP1A1 and lost its ligand activity. Indirubin would appear to be a good substrate of CYP1A1 given its low dissociation constant. Our results suggest that indirubin rapidly activates its own metabolism via AhR-mediated induction of CYP1A1 and this characteristic is consistent with the notion that indirubin is a physiological ligand of AhR.

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