Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Richard S. Pollenz, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Brian T. Livingston, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kristina H. Schmidt, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Robert L. Potter, Ph.D.


AHR, ARNT, ARNT2, XAP2, Dioxin, Signal transduction, Xenobiotic metabolism


The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) is a basic helix-loop-helix PER/ARNT/SIM (bHLH-PAS) transcription factor that binds ligands typified by 2,3,7,8-tetracholordibenzo-p-dioxin, translocates to the nucleus, dimerizes with the aryl hydrocarbon nuclear translocator (ARNT) and associates with specific cis xenobiotic response elements to activate transcription of genes involved with xenobiotic metabolism. AHR-mediated signal transduction has been evaluated thoroughly in the C57BL/6J mouse model system. This model system, however, may not be the most accurate model for human comparisons as the AHRb-1 allele carried by C57BL/6J contains a point mutation that prematurely truncates the receptor at 805 amino acids, while the AHRb-2, rat, and human AHR all contain an additional 42-45 amino acids at their carboxy-terminus that have 70% identity. This carboxy-terminal region could be functionally significant and the analysis of AHR-mediated signal transduction in the rat, human, or other mouse strains may better represent the physiology of the AHR pathway.

ARNT is another member of the bHLH-PAS family of proteins that is essential in several distinct signal transduction pathways mediated by its dimerization with a variety of bHLH-PAS proteins. Several isoforms of ARNT have been identified in mammalian and aquatic species. While ARNT and ARNT2 exhibit >90% amino acid identity in the bHLH and PAS domains, gene knock-out of either ARNT or ARNT2 results in embryonic/perinatal lethality characterized by distinct phenotypes. This suggests that neither protein can compensate fully for the loss of the other. Since overlapping tissue specific expression of ARNT and ARNT2 does exist, but neither ARNT can compensate fully for loss of the other, this suggests that the two proteins have distinct functions in the presence of various dimerization partners. Thus, the focus of these studies is to examine the discrepancies between the rat, human, or AHRb-2 possessing the extended carboxy-terminal region and that of the AHRb-1 and also to examine the role of both ARNT and ARNT2 during AHR-mediated signal transduction.