The interleukin-6-type cytokine oncostatin M induces aryl hydrocarbon receptor expression in a STAT3-dependent manner in human HepG2 hepatoma cells

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The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) is a ligand-dependent transcription factor that mediates the toxicity of dioxins, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and related environmental pollutants. Besides drug metabolism, several studies have provided evidence that the AHR and its downstream targets trigger important developmental, physiological and pathophysiological processes. However, in contrast to the molecular mechanisms of AHR-dependent signaling pathways, the transcriptional regulation of the AHR gene itself is as yet only marginally understood. We found that the pleiotropic interleukin (IL)-6-type cytokine oncostatin M (OSM) is an inducer of AHR mRNA and protein expression in human HepG2 hepatocarcinoma cells. Analyses of the human AHR promoter revealed the existence of a putative signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT)-binding element 5′-upstream of the transcription start site. By means of site-directed mutagenesis, inhibitor experiments and electrophoretic mobility shift assays, we demonstrated that this STAT motif is recognized by STAT3 to regulate basal and cytokine-inducible AHR expression in HepG2 cells. The identification of the AHR as a downstream target of IL-6-type cytokine-stimulated STAT3 signaling may contribute to a better understanding of the multiple facets of AHR during development, physiology and disease.The AHR is a ligand-dependent transcription factor that mediates the toxicity of dioxins and related chemicals. In contrast to AHR-dependent signaling, the transcriptional regulation of AHR itself is yet only marginally understood. We found that IL-6-type cytokines induce AHR expression in a STAT3-dependent manner, which may explain the often observed alterations in AHR expression during development and certain (patho)physiological conditions.

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