The Ah receptor nuclear translocator (ARNT) is the dimeric partner of hypoxia-inducible factors and thus plays a pivotal role in cellular adaptation to low oxygen environments. ARNT is also a dimeric partner for the Ah receptor (AHR), and this complex is essential in regulating the adaptive metabolic response to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Because of the essential role of ARNT in hypoxia-driven developmental events, it has been difficult to study the physiological significance of AHR·ARNT heterodimers in vivo. To address this issue, we developed a hypomorphic Arnt allele that displayed normal development and allowed the examination of the role of ARNT in AHR biology. In this regard, the AHR is also known to mediate two additional biological processes: the toxicological response to compounds such as 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (dioxin) and the developmental closure of a fetal vascular structure known as the ductus venosus. Although the mechanism of the adaptive pathway has been well described, the mechanism of AHR-mediated signal transduction in the toxic and developmental pathways is not well understood. Liver perfusion studies demonstrated that ARNT hypomorphs have a patent ductus venosus, identical to that observed in the Ahr null mice. Parallel dioxin toxicity studies demonstrated that the ARNT hypomorphs exhibited resistance to the end points of dioxin exposure. Moreover, we observed that toxicity could be segregated from the classical adaptive responses such as P4501A induction. Taken in sum, these experiments demonstrate that ARNT is an essential component of AHR developmental signaling and shed light on the mechanism of dioxin toxicity.
Patent ductus venosus and dioxin resistance in mice harboring a hypomorphic arnt allele