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Biochem Pharmacol. 2009 Feb 15;77(4):474-84. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2008.08.034. Epub 2008 Sep 16.

AhR acts as an E3 ubiquitin ligase to modulate steroid receptor functions.

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Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan.


The arylhydrocarbon receptor (AhR) mediates the adverse effects of dioxins, including modulation of sex steroid hormone signaling. The role of AhR as a transcription factor is well described. AhR regulates the expression of target genes such as CYP1A1; however, the mechanisms of AhR function through other target-selective systems remain elusive. Accumulating evidence suggests that AhR modulates the functions of other transcription factors. The ligand-activated AhR directly associates with estrogen or androgen receptors (ERalpha or AR) and modulates their function both positively and negatively. This may, in part explain the sex steroid hormone-related adverse effects of dioxins. AhR has recently been shown to promote the proteolysis of ERalpha/AR through assembling a ubiquitin ligase complex, CUL4B(AhR). In the CUL4B(AhR) complex, AhR acts as a substrate-recognition subunit to recruit ERalpha/AR. This action defines a novel role for AhR as a ligand-dependent E3 ubiquitin ligase. We propose that target-specific regulation of protein destruction, as well as gene expression, is modulated by environmental toxins through the E3 ubiquitin ligase activity of AhR.

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