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Environ Sci Technol. 2012 Mar 6;46(5):2967-75. doi: 10.1021/es2043992. Epub 2012 Feb 16.

Sequence and in vitro function of chicken, ring-necked pheasant, and Japanese quail AHR1 predict in vivo sensitivity to dioxins.

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  • 1Centre for Advanced Research in Environmental Genomics, Department of Biology, University of Ottawa , Ottawa, Ontario K1N 6N5, Canada.


There are large differences in sensitivity to the toxic and biochemical effects of dioxins and dioxin-like compounds (DLCs) among vertebrates. Previously, we demonstrated that the difference in sensitivity between domestic chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus) and common tern (Sterna hirundo) to aryl hydrocarbon receptor 1 (AHR1)-dependent changes in gene expression following exposure to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) is based upon the identities of the amino acids at two sites within the ligand binding domain of AHR1 (chicken--highly sensitive; Ile324_Ser380 vs common tern--250-fold less sensitive than chicken; Val325_Ala381). Here, we tested the hypotheses that (i) the sensitivity of other avian species to TCDD, 2,3,4,7,8-pentachlorodibenzofuran (PeCDF), and 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzofuran (TCDF) is also determined by the amino acids at sites that are equivalent to sites 324 and 380 in chicken, and (ii) Ile324_Ala380 and Val324_Ser380 genotypes confer intermediate sensitivity to DLCs in birds. We compared ligand-induced transactivation function of full-length AHR1s from chicken, common tern, ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus; Ile324_Ala380) and Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica; Val324_Ala380), and three Japanese quail AHR1 mutants. The results support our hypothesis that avian species can be grouped into three general classes of sensitivity to DLCs. Both AHR1 genotype and in vitro transactivation assays predict in vivo sensitivity. Contrary to the assumption that TCDD is the most potent DLC, PeCDF was more potent than TCDD at activating Japanese quail (13- to 26-fold) and common tern (23- to 30-fold) AHR1. Our results support and expand previous in vitro and in vivo work that demonstrated ligand-dependent species differences in AHR1 affinity. The findings and methods will be of use for DLC risk assessments.

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