Induction of expression of aryl hydrocarbon receptor-dependent genes in human HepaRG cell line modified by shRNA and treated with β-naphthoflavone

Mol Cell Biochem. 2017 Jan;425(1-2):59-75. doi: 10.1007/s11010-016-2862-3. Epub 2016 Oct 28.


The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) mediates a variety of biological responses to ubiquitous environmental pollutants. In this study, the effects of administration of β-naphthoflavone (BNF), a potent AhR ligand, on the expression of AhR-dependent genes were examined by microarray and qPCR analysis in both, differentiated and undifferentiated HepaRG cell lines. To prove that BNF-induced changes of investigated genes were indeed AhR-dependent, we knock down the expression of AhR by stable transfection of HepaRG cells with shRNA. Regardless of genetical identity, our results clearly demonstrate different expression profiles of AhR-dependent genes between differentiated and undifferentiated HepaRG cells. Genes involved in metabolism of xenobiotics constitute only minute fraction of all genes regulated by AhR in HepaRG cells. Participation of AhR in induction of expression of genes associated with regulation of apoptosis or involved in cell proliferation as well as AhR-dependent inhibition of genes connected to cell adhesion could support suggestion of involvement of AhR not only in initiation but also in progression of carcinogenesis. Among the AhR-dependent genes known to be involved in metabolism of xenobiotics, cytochromes P4501A1 and 1B1 belong to the most inducible by BNF. On the contrary, expression of GSTA1 and GSTA2 was significantly inhibited after BNF treatment of HepaRG cells. Among the AhR-dependent genes that are not involved in metabolism of xenobiotics SERPINB2, STC2, ARL4C, and TIPARP belong to the most inducible by BNF. Our results imply involvement of Ah receptor in regulation of CYP19A1, the gene-encoding aromatase, and an enzyme responsible for a key step in the biosynthesis of estrogens.

Keywords: ARL4C; AhR; CCNE2; CYP19A1 SERPINB2; CYP1A1; CYP1A2; CYP1B1; GSTA2; HepaRG cell line; NQO1; SLC7A5; STC2; TIPARP; β-Naphthoflavone.

MeSH terms

  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / biosynthesis*
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Cell Adhesion / drug effects
  • Cell Line
  • Estrogens / biosynthesis
  • Estrogens / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon / biosynthesis*
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon / genetics
  • beta-Naphthoflavone / pharmacology*


  • AHR protein, human
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Estrogens
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon
  • beta-Naphthoflavone