Aryl hydrocarbon receptor inhibition downregulates the TGF-beta/Smad pathway in human glioblastoma cells

Oncogene. 2009 Jul 16;28(28):2593-605. doi: 10.1038/onc.2009.104. Epub 2009 May 25.


The dioxin/aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) is a transcription factor, which has been attributed a role in human cancerogenesis, cell cycle progression and transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) signaling. As TGF-beta is an important mediator of the malignant phenotype of human gliomas, we studied AhR expression and function in glioma cells. AhR was not only expressed in glioma cells in vitro, but was also detected in human gliomas in vivo by immunohistochemistry, with a predominantly nuclear staining in glioblastomas. The AhR agonist, 3-methylcholanthrene, induced AhR nuclear translocation and upregulated mRNA levels of the AhR target gene, cytochrome P450 1A1 (CYP1A1). Conversely, pharmacological inhibition of AhR using the novel AhR antagonist, CH-223191, or AhR gene silencing using small interfering RNA showed that constitutive AhR activity positively controls TGF-beta1, TGF-beta2 and latent TGF-beta-binding protein-1 protein levels in malignant glioma cells. Moreover, antagonism of AhR reduced clonogenic survival and invasiveness of glioma cells. In contrast, AhR regulates TGF-beta signaling negatively in non-neoplastic astrocytes. Thus, the pathogenesis of glioma formation may involve altered AhR regulation of the TGF-beta/Smad pathway, and AhR may represent a promising target for the treatment of human malignant gliomas and other diseases associated with pathological TGF-beta activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Down-Regulation*
  • Gene Silencing
  • Glioblastoma / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon / genetics
  • Smad Proteins / physiology*
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / physiology*


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon
  • Smad Proteins
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta