Open Access Research article

Toxicogenomic analysis of exposure to TCDD, PCB126 and PCB153: identification of genomic biomarkers of exposure to AhR ligands

Bladimir J Ovando1, Corie A Ellison1, Chad M Vezina2 and James R Olson1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York 14214, USA

2 School of Pharmacy and Molecular and Environmental Toxicology Center, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 53705, USA

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BMC Genomics 2010, 11:583  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-11-583

Published: 19 October 2010



Two year cancer bioassays conducted by the National Toxicology Program have shown chronic exposure to dioxin-like compounds (DLCs) to lead to the development of both neoplastic and non-neoplastic lesions in the hepatic tissue of female Sprague Dawley rats. Most, if not all, of the hepatotoxic effects induced by DLC's are believed to involve the binding and activation of the transcription factor, the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR). Toxicogenomics was implemented to identify genomic responses that may be contributing to the development of hepatotoxicity in rats.


Through comparative analysis of time-course microarray data, unique hepatic gene expression signatures were identified for the DLCs, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) (100 ng/kg/day) and 3,3',4,4',5-pentachlorobiphenyl (PCB126) (1000 ng/kg/day) and the non-DLC 2,2',4,4',5,5',-hexachlorobiphenyl (PCB153) (1000 μg/kg/day). A common time independent signature of 41 AhR genomic biomarkers was identified which exhibited at least a 2-fold change in expression following subchronic (13-wk) and chronic (52-wk) p.o. exposure to TCDD and PCB126, but not the non DLC, PCB153. Real time qPCR analysis validated that 30 of these genes also exhibited at least a 2-fold change in hepatic expression at 24 hr following a single exposure to TCDD (5 μg/kg, po). Phenotypic anchoring was conducted which identified forty-six genes that were differently expressed both following chronic p.o. exposure to DLCs and in previously reported studies of cholangiocarcinoma or hepatocellular adenoma.


Together these analyses provide a comprehensive description of the genomic responses which occur in rat hepatic tissue with exposure to AhR ligands and will help to isolate those genomic responses which are contributing to the hepatotoxicity observed with exposure to DLCs. In addition, the time independent gene expression signature of the AhR ligands may assist in identifying other agents with the potential to elicit dioxin-like hepatotoxic responses.