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PLoS One. 2013 Jul 26;8(7):e69956. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0069956. Print 2013.

Adaptive and specialised transcriptional responses to xenobiotic stress in Caenorhabditis elegans are regulated by nuclear hormone receptors.

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School of Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom.


Characterisation of the pathways by which xenobiotics are metabolised and excreted in both target and non-target organisms is crucial for the rational design of effective and specific novel bioactive molecules. Consequently, we have investigated the induced responses of the model nematode Caenorhabditis elegans to a variety of xenobiotics which represent a range of putative modes of action. The majority of genes that were specifically induced in preliminary microarray analyses encoded enzymes from Phase I and II metabolism, including cytochrome P450s, short chain dehydrogenases, UDP-glucuronosyl transferases and glutathione transferases. Changes in gene expression were confirmed by quantitative PCR and GFP induction in reporter strains driven by promoters for transcription of twelve induced enzymes was investigated. The particular complement of metabolic genes induced was found to be highly contingent on the xenobiotic applied. The known regulators of responses to applied chemicals ahr-1, hif-1, mdt-15 and nhr-8 were not required for any of these inducible responses and skn-1 regulated GFP expression from only two of the promoters. Reporter strains were used in conjunction with systematic RNAi screens to identify transcription factors which drive expression of these genes under xenobiotic exposure. These transcription factors appeared to regulate specific xenobiotic responses and have no reported phenotypes under standard conditions. Focussing on nhr-176 we demonstrate the role of this transcription factor in mediating the resistance to thiabendazole.

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