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Environ Sci Technol. 2008 Oct 1;42(19):7535-41.

Key amino acids in the aryl hydrocarbon receptor predict dioxin sensitivity in avian species.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Centre for Advanced Research in Environmental Genomics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.


Dioxin-like compounds are toxic to most vertebrates, but significant differences in sensitivity exist among species. A recent study suggests that the amino acid residues corresponding to Ile324 and Ser380 in the chicken aryl hydrocarbon receptor 1 (AHR1) are important determinants of differential biochemical responses to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) in chickens and common terns. Here, we investigate whether the identity of these amino acid residues can predict embryonic sensitivity to dioxin-like compounds in a wide range of birds. AHR1 sequences were determined in species for which sensitivity data were available. Of all the species surveyed, chickens were unique in having the Ile/Ser genotype and were also the most sensitive to dioxin-like compounds. Turkeys, ring-necked pheasants, and Eastern bluebirds (intermediate Ile/Ala genotype) were less sensitive than chickens but more sensitive than American kestrels, common terns, double-crested cormorants, Japanese quail, herring gulls, or ducks (Val/ Ala genotype). Our work suggests that key amino acids in the AHR1 ligand binding domain are predictive of broad categories of dioxin sensitivity in avian species. Given the large degree of variation in species sensitivity and the paucity of species-specific toxicity data, a genetic screen based on these findings could substantially improve risk assessment for dioxin-like compounds in wild birds.

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