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Arch Toxicol. 2018 Dec;92(12):3471-3486. doi: 10.1007/s00204-018-2321-x. Epub 2018 Oct 6.

Propiconazole is an activator of AHR and causes concentration additive effects with an established AHR ligand.

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Department of Food Safety, German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, Max-Dohrn-Str. 8-10, 10589, Berlin, Germany.
Dipartimento di Scienze Farmacologiche e Biomolecolari, Università degli Studi di Milano, Via Balzaretti 9, 20133, Milan, Italy.
Natural and Medical Sciences Institute, University of Tübingen, Markwiesenstrasse 55, 72074, Reutlingen, Germany.
Institute of Chemistry, Technical University Berlin, Straße des 17.Juni 124, 10623, Berlin, Germany.
Department of Pesticides Safety, German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, Max-Dohrn-Str. 8-10, 10589, Berlin, Germany.
German Centre for the Protection of Laboratory Animals (Bf3R), German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, Diedersdorfer Weg 1, 12277, Berlin, Germany.


Consumers are exposed to pesticide residues and other food contaminants via the diet. Both can exert adverse effects on different target organs via the activation of nuclear receptor pathways. Hepatotoxic effects of the widely used triazole fungicide propiconazole (Pi) are generally attributed to the activation of the constitutive androstane receptor (CAR) or the pregnane X receptor (PXR). We now investigated the effects of Pi on the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) and possible mixture toxicity when Pi is present in combination with BbF, an AHR ligand. In silico docking simulations indicate that Pi can bind to human AHR. Subsequent dual luciferase reporter gene assays in human HepG2 cells showed that Pi activates the AHR in vitro. This concentration-dependent activation was confirmed by real-time RT-PCR analyses of the model AHR target genes CYP1A1 and CYP1A2 in human HepaRG and HepG2 cells. In addition, induction of CYP1A1 protein levels and enzyme activity were recorded. Similarly, increased mRNA expression and enzyme activity of Cyp1a1 and Cyp1a2 was observed in livers of rats treated with Pi for 28 days via the diet. Gene expression analysis in AHR-knockout HepaRG cells showed no induction of CYP1A1 and CYP1A2, whereas gene expression in CAR-, and PXR-knockout cells was induced. Finally, mixture effects of Pi and BbF were analyzed in human cell lines: modeling of concentration-response curves revealed concentration additivity. In conclusion, our results demonstrate that the triazole Pi is an activator of AHR in silico, in vitro and in vivo and causes additive effects with an established AHR ligand.


Aryl hydrocarbon receptor; Concentration additivity; Liver toxicity; Mixture toxicity; Nuclear receptor; Triazole fungicides

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