BACKGROUND - During the course of alcohol-induced liver damage, hepatic stellate cells are transformed into proliferative, fibrogenic, and contractile myofibroblasts. Aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) is a transcription factor that controls the expression of genes involved in the metabolism of xenobiotics, inflammation, cell proliferation, and death.
METHODS - Immortal mouse hepatic stellate cells (MHSCs) were isolated from transgenic mice that expressed a thermolabile SV40 tumor antigen. Quantitative real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction assays, Western blot analysis, promoter activity assays, and chromatin immunoprecipitation analyses were performed for studying the effect of ethanol (EtOH) on AhR expression and transcriptional activity.
RESULTS - Treatment of MHSCs with 50 to 200 mM EtOH for 6 hours induced AhR nuclear translocation, enhanced the promoter activity of cytochrome P450 (CYP) 1A1, increased the amount of AhR bound to the promoter of CYP1A1 and 1B1, and up-regulated the mRNA expression of these AhR target genes in a dose-dependent manner. In contrast, EtOH exposure down-regulated AhR mRNA and protein expression. Similarly, benzo(a)pyrene (BaP) at 10 nM reduced AhR and increased CYP1A1 and 1B1 mRNAs. Pretreatment of MHSCs with 50 mM EtOH for 7 days diminished the capacity of MHSCs to express CYP1A1 and 1B1 induced by a 200 mM EtOH challenge, or by 10 nM BaP. However, the up-regulatory effect of EtOH on solute carrier family 16, member 6 (SLC16a6) was unaffected by EtOH pretreatment. Similar to EtOH, dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) at concentrations of 50 to 100 mM down-regulated AhR and up-regulated CYP1A1 mRNA expression in a dose-dependent manner.
CONCLUSIONS - These data, for the first time, demonstrate that EtOH activates MHSC AhR and down-regulates its expression. Chronic EtOH pretreatment lowers the availability of AhR, and specifically diminishes the inducibility of CYP genes. The effect on AhR appears to not be an EtOH-specific response, as DMSO alone (and possibly other organic solvents) was also able to activate AhR.
Copyright © 2012 by the Research Society on Alcoholism.