Newspapers and newspaper ink contain agonists for the Ah receptor

Jessica E S Bohonowych, Bin Zhao, Alicia Timme-Laragy, Dawoon Jung, Richard T. Di Giulio, Michael S. Denison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Ligand-dependent activation of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) pathway leads to a diverse array of biological and toxicological effects. The best-studied ligands for the AhR include polycyclic and halogenated aromatic hydrocarbons, the most potent of which is 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). However, as new AhR ligands are identified and characterized, their structural and physiochemical diversity continues to expand. Our identification of AhR agonists in crude extracts from diverse materials raises questions as to the magnitude and extent of human exposure to AhR ligands through normal daily activities. We have found that solvent extracts of newspapers from countries around the world stimulate the AhR signaling pathway. AhR agonist activity was observed for dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), ethanol, and water extracts of printed newspaper, unprinted virgin paper, and black printing ink, where activation of luciferase reporter gene expression was transient, suggesting that the AhR active chemical(s) was metabolically labile. DMSO and ethanol extracts also stimulated AhR transformation and DNA binding, and also competed with [3H]TCDD for binding to the AhR. In addition, DMSO extracts of printed newspaper induced cytochrome P450 1A associated 7-ethoxyresorufin-O-deethylase activity in zebrafish embryos in vivo. Although the responsible bioactive chemical(s) remain to be identified, our results demonstrate that newspapers and printing ink contain relatively potent metabolically labile agonists of the AhR. Given the large amount of recycling and reprocessing of newspapers throughout the world, release of these easily extractable AhR agonists into the environment should be examined and their potential effects on aquatic organisms assessed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)278-290
Number of pages13
JournalToxicological Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2008


  • 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin
  • Ah receptor
  • Newspaper
  • Printing ink

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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