Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Richard S. Pollenz, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Brian T. Livingston, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jessica L. Moore, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Robert L. Potter, Ph.D.


arylhydrocarbon receptor (AHR), cytochrome p4501A1 (CYP1A1), 2, 3, 7, 8, - tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), xenobiotic response element (XRE), gene regulation


Cytochrome P4501A1 (CYP1A1) is a phase I bio-transformation enzyme involved in the metabolism of xenobiotics via the oxygenation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) including the carcinogen, benzo(a)pyrene. Induction of the CYP1A1 gene is regulated at the transcriptional level and is ligand dependent with the prototypical 2,3,7,8,-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) being the most potent known inducer of CYP1A1 transcription. This process is mediated by the AHR/ARNT signaling pathway whereby ligand binds AHR in the cytoplasm allowing its translocation to the nucleus where it binds with its hertrodimerization partner, ARNT and subsequently binds DNA at cognate binding sites termed xenobiotic responsive elements (XREs) located in the 5' flanking region of the CYP1A1 and other genes.

The zebrafish (Danio rerio) has recently become an important model system for the study of TCDD-mediated developmental toxicity due to their relative ease of maintaining and breeding, external fertilization, abundant transparent embryos, and sensitivity to TCDD similar to mammalian models. It is therefore essential to vii characterize the molecular mechanisms of AHR mediated gene regulation in this organism.

The upstream flanking region of a putative CYP1A gene from zebrafish was identified by the screening of a PAC genomic library. Sequencing revealed a region which contains 8 putative core xenobiotic response elements (XREs) organized in two distinct clusters. The region between -580 to -187 contains XRE 1-3 while the region between -2608 to -2100 contains XRE 4-8. Only XRE 1, 3, 4, 7, and 8 exhibited TCDD-dependant association of AHR/ARNT complexes when evaluated by gel shift assays. The use of in vitro mutagenesis and Luciferase reporter assays further showed that only XRE's 4, 7, and 8 were capable of conveying TCDD-mediated gene induction. The role of nucleotides flanking the core XRE was investigated through the use of EMSA and reporter assays. Similar methods were employed on additional transcription factor binding sites identified by in silico analyses revealing two sites conforming to an HNF- 3α and CREB motif, respectively, which demonstrate importance to regulation of the gene.