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Biomol Ther (Seoul). 2019 Apr 11. doi: 10.4062/biomolther.2019.025. [Epub ahead of print]

Particulate Matter-Induced Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Regulates Autophagy in Keratinocytes.

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Department of Genetic Engineering & Graduate School of Biotechnology, College of Life Sciences, Kyung Hee University, Yongin 17104, Republic of Korea.


Particulate matter (PM), which refers to the mixture of particles present in the air, can have harmful effects. Damage to cells by PM, including disruption of organelles and proteins, can trigger autophagy, and the relationship between autophagy and PM has been well studied. However, the cellular regulators of PM-induced autophagy have not been well characterized, especially in keratinocytes. The Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor (AhR) is expressed in the epidermis and is activated by PM. In this study, we investigated the role of the AhR in PM-induced autophagy in HaCaT cells. Our results showed that PM led to AhR activation in keratinocytes. Activation of the AhR-target gene CYP1A1 by PM was reduced by co-treatment with α-naphthoflavone (α-NF), an AhR inhibitor. We also evaluated activation of the autophagy pathway in PM-treated keratinocytes. In HaCaT cells, treatment with PM treatment led to the induction of microtubules-associated proteins light chain 3 (LC3) and p62/SQSTM1, which are essential components of the autophagy pathway. To study the role of the AhR in mediating PM-induced autophagy, we treated cells with α-NF or used an siRNA against AhR. Expression of LC3-ІІ induced by PM was decreased in a dose dependent manner by α-NF. Furthermore, knockdown of AhR with siAhR diminished PM-induced expression of LC3-ІІ and p62. Together, these results suggest that inhibition of the AhR decreases PM-induced autophagy. We confirmed these results using the autophagy-inhibitors BAF and 3-MA. Taken together, our results indicate that exposure to PM induces autophagy via the AhR in HaCaT keratinocytes.


AhR; Autophagy; Keratinocytes; LC3; PM; p62

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