Open Access Open Badges Research article

Aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR)-regulated transcriptomic changes in rats sensitive or resistant to major dioxin toxicities

Ivy D Moffat1, Paul C Boutros4, Hanbo Chen4, Allan B Okey1 and Raimo Pohjanvirta23*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

2 Department of Food Hygiene and Environmental Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

3 National Institute for Health and Welfare, Laboratory of Toxicology, Kuopio, Finland

4 Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, Toronto, Canada

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Citation and License

BMC Genomics 2010, 11:263  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-11-263

Published: 26 April 2010



The major toxic effects of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) appear to result from dysregulation of mRNA levels mediated by the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR). Dioxin-like chemicals alter expression of numerous genes in liver, but it remains unknown which lie in pathways leading to major toxicities such as hepatotoxicity, wasting and lethality. To identify genes involved in these responses we exploited a rat genetic model. Rats expressing an AHR splice-variant lacking a portion of the transactivation domain are highly resistant to dioxin-induced toxicities. We examined changes in hepatic mRNA abundances 19 hours after TCDD treatment in two dioxin-resistant rat strains/lines and two dioxin-sensitive rat strains/lines.


Resistant rat strains/lines exhibited fewer transcriptional changes in response to TCDD than did rats with wildtype AHR. However, well-known AHR-regulated and dioxin-inducible genes such as CYP1A1, CYP1A2, and CYP1B1 remained fully responsive to TCDD in all strains/lines. Pathway analysis indicated that the genes which respond differently to TCDD between sensitive and resistant rats are mainly involved in lipid metabolism, cellular membrane function and energy metabolism. These pathways previously have been shown to respond differently to dioxin treatment in dioxin-sensitive versus dioxin-resistant rats at a biochemical level and in the differential phenotype of toxicologic responses.


The transactivation-domain deletion in dioxin-resistant rats does not abolish global AHR transactivational activity but selectively interferes with expression of subsets of genes that are candidates to mediate or protect from major dioxin toxicities such as hepatotoxicity, wasting and death.