A, Mohammadi-Bardbori., L, Vikström Bergander., U, Rannug., A, Rannug. An NADPH oxidase-dependent mechanism explains how arsenic, and other oxidants, can activate aryl hydrocarbon receptor signaling. Chem. Res. Toxicol. 2015, DOI: 10.1021/acs.chemrestox.5b00415.


The mechanisms explaining arsenic toxicity are not well understood but physiological consequences of stimulated aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) signaling both directly and through crosstalk with other pathways have been indicated. The aim of this study was to establish how arsenic interacts with AHR-mediated transcription. The human hepatoma cell line (HepG2-XRE-Luc) carrying a luciferase reporter under the control of two AHR response elements (AHREs) and immortalized human keratinocytes (HaCaT) were exposed to sodium arsenite (NaAsO2; As3+), alone or in combination with the endogenous high affinity AHR ligand 6-formylindolo[3,2-b]carbazole (FICZ). Luciferase activity, cytochrome P4501A1 (CYP1A1) activity, oxidative stress-related responses, metabolic clearance of FICZ, and NADPH oxidase (NOX) activity as well as nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2 (Nrf2)-dependent gene expression were measured. Arsenic inhibited CYP1A1 enzyme activity and reduced the metabolic clearance of FICZ. Arsenic also led to activated CYP1A1 transcription, but only in cells grown in medium containing trace amounts of the endogenous ligand FICZ, pointing to an indirect mechanism of activation. Initially, arsenic caused dose-dependent inhibition of FICZ-activated AHR signaling, disturbed intracellular GSH status and increased expression of oxidative stress-related genes. Silencing of NOX4, addition of N-acetylcystein or pretreatment with arsenic itself attenuated the initial dose-dependent inhibition of AHR signaling. Arsenic pretreatment led to elevated GSH levels and sensitized the cells to ligand-dependent AHR signaling, while silencing of Nrf2 significantly reduced arsenic-mediated activation of the AHR. In addition, influence of NOX on AHR activation was also observed in cells treated with the SH-reactive metals cadmium, mercury and nickel. Together, the results suggest that SH-reactive agents via a new and possibly general NOX/H2O2-dependent mechanism can interfere with the endogenous regulation of the AHR.