Convergence of hepcidin deficiency, systemic iron overloading, heme accumulation, and REV-ERBα/β activation in aryl hydrocarbon receptor-elicited hepatotoxicity

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Persistent aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) agonists elicit dose-dependent hepatic lipid accumulation, oxidative stress, inflammation, and fibrosis in mice. Iron (Fe) promotes AhR-mediated oxidative stress by catalyzing reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. To further characterize the role of Fe in AhR-mediated hepatotoxicity, male C57BL/6 mice were orally gavaged with sesame oil vehicle or 0.01–30 μg/kg 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) every 4 days for 28 days. Duodenal epithelial and hepatic RNA-Seq data were integrated with hepatic AhR ChIP-Seq, capillary electrophoresis protein measurements, and clinical chemistry analyses. TCDD dose-dependently repressed hepatic expression of hepcidin (Hamp and Hamp2), the master regulator of systemic Fe homeostasis, resulting in a 2.6-fold increase in serum Fe with accumulating Fe spilling into urine. Total hepatic Fe levels were negligibly increased while transferrin saturation remained unchanged. Furthermore, TCDD elicited dose-dependent gene expression changes in heme biosynthesis including the induction of aminolevulinic acid synthase 1 (Alas1) and repression of uroporphyrinogen decarboxylase (Urod), leading to a 50% increase in hepatic hemin and a 13.2-fold increase in total urinary porphyrins. Consistent with this heme accumulation, differential gene expression suggests that heme activated BACH1 and REV-ERBα/β, causing induction of heme oxygenase 1 (Hmox1) and repression of fatty acid biosynthesis, respectively. Collectively, these results suggest that Hamp repression, Fe accumulation, and increased heme levels converge to promote oxidative stress and the progression of TCDD-elicited hepatotoxicity.HIGHLIGHTSTCDD represses hepatic hepcidin expression, leading to systemic iron overloading.Dysregulation of heme biosynthesis is consistent with heme and porphyrin accumulation.Heme-activated REV-ERBα/β repress circadian-regulated hepatic lipid metabolism.Disruption of iron homeostasis promotes TCDD-elicited steatohepatitis with fibrosis.

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