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Dioxin-dependent and dioxin-independent gene batteries: comparison of liver and kidney in AHR-null mice.


The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) is a widely expressed ligand-dependent transcription factor that mediates cellular responses to dioxins and other planar aromatic hydrocarbons. Ahr-null mice are refractory to the toxic effects of dioxin exposure. Although some mechanistic aspects of AHR activity are well understood, the tissue specificity of AHR effects remains unclear, both during development and following administration of exogenous ligands. To address the latter issue, we defined and compared transcriptional responses to dioxin exposure in the liver and kidney of wild-type and Ahr-null adult C57BL/6J mice treated with either 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin or corn-oil vehicle. In both tissues, essentially all effects of dioxin on hepatic mRNA levels were mediated by the AHR. Although 297 genes were altered by dioxin exposure in the liver, only 17 were changed in the kidney, including a number of well-established AHR target genes. Ahr genotype had a large effect in both tissues, profoundly remodeling both the renal and hepatic transcriptomes. Surprisingly, a large number of genes were affected by Ahr genotype in both tissues, suggesting the presence of a basal AHR gene battery. Alterations of the renal transcriptome in Ahr-null animals were associated with perturbation of specific functional pathways and enrichment of specific DNA motifs. Our results demonstrate the importance of intertissue comparisons, highlight the basal role of the AHR in liver and kidney, and support a role in development or normal physiology.

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