Pregnane X receptor regulates the AhR/Cyp1A1 pathway and protects liver cells from benzo-[α]-pyrene-induced DNA damage

Hongmei Cui, Xinsheng Gu, Jingshu Chen, Ying Xie, Sui Ke, Jing Wu, Andrei Golovko, Benjamin Morpurgo, Chunhong Yan, Timothy D. Phillips, Wen Xie, Jianyuan Luo, Zhijun Zhou, Yanan Tian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Pregnane X receptor (PXR) plays an important role in protecting cells from mutagenic DNA damages induced by endogenous and exogenous toxicants. This protective function is often attributed to the PXR-regulated metabolic detoxification. Here we report a novel potential mechanism that PXR reduces benzo-[α]-pyrene(BaP)-induced DNA damage through inhibiting the transcriptional activity of aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) which plays a pivotal role in the bioactivation of BaP. We have utilized three well-characterized cell lines, i.e. Hepa1c1c7, AhR +/+; Bpr lacks AhR obligatory partner ARNT; Tao, lacks AhR, to analyze pivotal role of AhR/ARNT complex in mediating the BaP-induced DNA damages using comet assay (single-cell gel electrophoresis). We found that PXR activation could significantly inhibit BaP-induced DNA damage in the HepG2 cells as well as mouse hepatocytes. Using PXR-null and wild type mouse hepatocytes we showed that PXR activation by pregnenolone 16α-carbonitrile (PCN) significantly inhibited BaP-induced DNA damage and this protective effect was abolished in PXR-null hepatocytes. Mechanistically, PXR activation inhibited expression of AhR-target genes for CYP1A1, CYP1B1 and CYP1A2 that are required for BaP biotransformation in cultured liver cells, or in the livers of C57BL/6J mice. Using an AhR-responsive reporter assay as well as chromatin immunoprecipitation assay we found that PXR activation transcriptionally represses AhR-regulated gene expression. Furthermore, we found that PXR directly bound AhR at its DNA-binding domain, and this association may play a role in preventing of the AhR from binding to its target genes as shown in the ChIP assay. Taken together, our study has revealed a novel mechanism by which PXR protects liver cells from BaP-induced DNA damage through inhibiting the BaP biotransformation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-76
Number of pages10
JournalToxicology Letters
StatePublished - Jun 5 2017


  • AhR
  • BaP
  • DNA damages
  • PXR
  • cyp1a1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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