On the significance of the role of cellular stress response reactions in the toxic actions of dioxin

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Dioxin is known to cause many toxic effects that vary greatly in different tissues, ages, genders, and species. In this review, an attempt has been made to sort out major signaling pathways involved in the expression of the toxicities of dioxin. The major strategy adopted in analyzing its major signaling pathways is to view the toxic actions of dioxin as the result of the Ah receptor-mediated expression of a major cellular emergency stress response signal. Evidence pointing to the similarities between the symptoms of poisoning by dioxin and those produced by chronic administration of typical stressors, particularly lipopolysaccharides (LPS), bacterial endotoxins, has been assembled and analyzed. The common symptoms are wasting syndrome, atherosclerosis, fatty liver, and thymic atrophy. On the other hand, oxidative stress caused by cytochrome P450 induction is one of the typical stresses of dioxin poisoning, but not LPS poisoning. One of the major means through which dioxin triggers stress responses via “stress-activated kinase pathways” is stimulation of the cellular production of cytokines/autocrines, particularly growth factors. In the case of hepatocytes for instance, transforming growth factor-α plays a pivotal role in the dioxin-induced activation of the epidermal growth factor receptor and the extracellular signal-related kinase pathway, which acts as a signal to suppress apoptosis induced by cellular stress. These observations as well as additional experimental data support the idea that one of the major functions of the Ah receptor could be the elicitation of cellular stress response reactions. Another key point in understanding the toxic action of dioxin is that, unlike other cases of stressors, dioxin signaling becomes chronically sustained because of its extreme persistence in the human body, its half-life of 7-10 years, and its selective accumulation in fatty target tissues.

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