Send to

Choose Destination
Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2009 Mar;2(3):251-6. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-08-0146. Epub 2009 Feb 17.

Toxic and chemopreventive ligands preferentially activate distinct aryl hydrocarbon receptor pathways: implications for cancer prevention.

Author information

Department of Urology, San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the University of California at San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94121, USA.


The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) is a ligand-activated regulatory protein that controls estrogen action through two distinct pathways. In one pathway, AhR acts as a transcription factor that induces the expression of the CYP1 family of estrogen-metabolizing genes; in the other pathway, AhR initiates the degradation of the estrogen receptor and suppresses estrogen signaling. The AhR ligand 3,3'-diindolylmethane (DIM) is a beneficial dietary constituent that prevents breast tumors in rodents and is associated with decreased breast cancer risk in humans. 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) is a toxic AhR ligand that is implicated in birth defects, infertility, and cancer. We analyzed MCF-7 cells to gain insight into how two AhR ligands can exert such fundamentally different health effects. We find that DIM and TCDD have differing abilities to activate the distinct AhR-controlled pathways. TCDD strongly induces AhR-dependent CYP1 gene expression, whereas DIM is a relatively weak CYP1 inducer. DIM strongly inhibits estrogen receptor-alpha expression and estrogen signaling, whereas TCDD has a notably weaker effect on these processes. Small interfering RNA knockdown of AhR confirms that the effects of DIM and TCDD are indeed AhR dependent. Our findings reveal that DIM and TCDD each elicit a unique pattern of change in pathways that control estrogen action; such patterns may determine if an AhR ligand has beneficial or adverse health effects.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire
Loading ...
Support Center