Ligand promiscuity of aryl hydrocarbon receptor agonists and antagonists revealed by site-directed mutagenesis

Anatoly A. Soshilov, Michael S. Denison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) is a ligand-dependent transcription factor that can be activated by structurally diverse chemicals. To examine the mechanisms responsible for the promiscuity in AhR ligand binding, we determined the effects of mutations within the AhR ligand-binding domain (LBD) on the activity of diverse AhR ligands. Site-directed mutagenesis identified Ile319 of the mouse AhR and, to a lesser extent, Phe318 as residues involved in ligand-selective modulation of AhR transformation using a panel of 12 AhR ligands. These ligands could be categorized into four distinct structurally related groups based on their ability to activate AhR mutants at position 319 in vitro. The mutation I319K was selectively activated by FICZ and not by other examined ligands in vitro and in cell culture. F318L and F318A mutations resulted in the conversion of AhR agonists β-naphthoflavone and 3-methylcholanthrene, respectively, into partial agonists/ antagonists. Hsp90 binding to the AhR was decreased with several mutations and was inversely correlated with AhR ligand-binding promiscuity. Together, these data define overlapping amino acid residues within the AhR LBD involved in the selectivity of ligand binding, the agonist or antagonist mode of ligand binding, and hsp90 binding and provide insights into the ligand diversity of AhR activators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1707-1719
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular and Cellular Biology
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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