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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2006 Aug-Sep;1759(8-9):388-402. Epub 2006 Aug 7.

Genome-wide analyses show that nuclear and cytoplasmic RNA levels are differentially affected by dioxin.

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  • 1Division of Environmental Genetics and Molecular Toxicology, University of Cincinnati, Department of Environmental Health, Cincinnati, OH 45267-0056, USA.


The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) mounts the body's main molecular defense against environmental toxicants by inducing a battery of genes encoding xenobiotic metabolizing proteins. The AHR is activated by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon toxicants, including the pervasive teratogen and carcinogen 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD or dioxin). The TCDD-activated AHR significantly changes the cytoplasmic mRNA levels of hundreds of genes, but little is known of the mechanism by which the activated AHR causes such a strong effect on global gene expression. We used high-density microarrays to compare nuclear and cytoplasmic RNA levels from untreated and TCDD-treated mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEF) to test the hypotheses that (1) TCDD has a large impact on nuclear RNA levels and (2) that cytoplasmic RNA levels are dependent on nuclear RNA levels. We found that nuclear RNA levels are strongly affected by TCDD, and that nuclear and cytoplasmic RNA levels are only weakly correlated, indicating that other regulatory mechanisms are controlling cytoplasmic RNA levels. The nuclear RNAs most affected by TCDD encode proteins involved in nuclear RNA processing and transcription. We conclude that although the AHR regulates key xenobiotic metabolizing genes at the transcriptional level, a larger impact of the TCDD-activated AHR may be at post-transcriptional levels.

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