Induction of a chloracne phenotype in an epidermal equivalent model by 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) is dependent on aryl hydrocarbon receptor activation and is not reproduced by aryl hydrocarbon receptor knock down

Alison R Forrester, Martina S Elias, Emma L Woodward, Mark Graham, Faith M Williams, Nick J Reynolds
Journal of Dermatological Science 2014, 73 (1): 10-22

BACKGROUND: 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) is a potent activator of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) and causes chloracne in humans. The pathogenesis and role of AhR in chloracne remains incompletely understood.

OBJECTIVE: To elucidate the mechanisms contributing to the development of the chloracne-like phenotype in a human epidermal equivalent model and identify potential biomarkers.

METHODS: Using primary normal human epidermal keratinocytes (NHEK), we studied AhR activation by XRE-luciferase, AhR degradation and CYP1A1 induction. We treated epidermal equivalents with high affinity TCDD or two non-chloracnegens: β-naphthoflavone (β-NF) and 2-(1'H-indole-3'-carbonyl)-thiazole-4-carboxylic acid methyl ester (ITE). Using Western blotting and immunochemistry for filaggrin (FLG), involucrin (INV) and transglutaminase-1 (TGM-1), we compared the effects of the ligands on keratinocyte differentiation and development of the chloracne-like phenotype by H&E.

RESULTS: In NHEKs, activation of an XRE-luciferase and CYP1A1 protein induction correlated with ligand binding affinity: TCDD>β-NF>ITE. AhR degradation was induced by all ligands. In epidermal equivalents, TCDD induced a chloracne-like phenotype, whereas β-NF or ITE did not. All three ligands induced involucrin and TGM-1 protein expression in epidermal equivalents whereas FLG protein expression decreased following treatment with TCDD and β-NF. Inhibition of AhR by α-NF blocked TCDD-induced AhR activation in NHEKs and blocked phenotypic changes in epidermal equivalents; however, AhR knock down did not reproduce the phenotype.

CONCLUSION: Ligand-induced CYP1A1 and AhR degradation did not correlate with their chloracnegenic potential, indicating that neither CYP1A1 nor AhR are suitable biomarkers. Mechanistic studies showed that the TCDD-induced chloracne-like phenotype depends on AhR activation whereas AhR knock down did not appear sufficient to induce the phenotype.

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