Di-(2-ethylhexyl)-phthalate (DEHP) activates the constitutive androstane receptor (CAR): a novel signalling pathway sensitive to phthalates

Biochem Pharmacol. 2009 Jun 1;77(11):1735-46. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2009.02.023. Epub 2009 Mar 11.


Di-(2-ethylhexyl)-phthalate (DEHP), a widely used plasticizer, is detected in consumer's body fluids. Contamination occurs through environmental and food chain sources. In mouse liver, DEHP activates the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha (PPARalpha) and regulates the expression of its target genes. Several in vitro investigations support the simultaneous recruitment of additional nuclear receptor pathways. We investigated, in vivo, the hepatic impact of low doses of DEHP on PPARalpha activation, and the putative activation of additional signalling pathways. Wild-type and PPARalpha-deficient mice were exposed to different doses of DEHP. Gene expression profiling delineated the role of PPARalpha and revealed a PPARalpha-independent regulation of several prototypic constitutive androstane receptor (CAR) target genes. Thus, we developed an original hepatic cell line expressing CAR to investigate its activation by DEHP. By means of a pharmacological inhibitor or CAR-targeting shRNAs, we established that CAR is required for the effect of DEHP on Cyp2b10, a recognized CAR target gene. Moreover, DEHP dose-dependently induced CYP2B6 in human primary hepatocyte cultures. This finding demonstrates that CAR also represents a transcriptional regulator sensitive to phthalates. CAR-mediated effects of DEHP provide a new rationale for most endpoints of phthalates toxicity described previously, including endocrine disruption, hepatocarcinogenesis and the metabolic syndrome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA Primers
  • Diethylhexyl Phthalate / pharmacology*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Hepatocytes / cytology
  • Hepatocytes / drug effects
  • Hepatocytes / physiology
  • Liver / cytology
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • PPAR alpha / deficiency
  • PPAR alpha / drug effects
  • PPAR alpha / physiology
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / drug effects
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Transcription Factors / drug effects
  • Transcription Factors / physiology*
  • Transfection


  • DNA Primers
  • PPAR alpha
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • Transcription Factors
  • constitutive androstane receptor
  • DNA
  • Diethylhexyl Phthalate