Selective Ah receptor modulators attenuate NPC1L1-mediated cholesterol uptake through repression of SREBP-2 transcriptional activity

Gulsum E. Muku, Ann Kusnadi, Guray Kuzu, Rachel Tanos, Iain A. Murray, Krishne Gowda, Shantu Amin, Gary H. Perdew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The ability of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) to alter hepatic expression of cholesterol synthesis genes in a DRE-independent manner in mice and humans has been reported. We have examined the influence of functionally distinct classes of AHR ligands on the levels of Niemann–Pick C1-like intracellular cholesterol transporter (NPC1L1) and enzymes involved in the cholesterol synthesis pathway. NPC1L1 is known to mediate the intestinal absorption of dietary cholesterol and is clinically targeted. AHR ligands were capable of attenuating cholesterol uptake through repression of NPC1L1 expression. Through mutagenesis experiments targeting the two DRE sequences present in the promoter region of the NPC1L1 gene, we provide evidence that the repression does not require functional DRE sequences; while knockdown experiments demonstrated that this regulation is dependent on AHR and sterol-regulatory element-binding protein-2 (SREBP-2). Furthermore, upon ligand activation of AHR, the human intestinal Caco-2 cell line revealed coordinate repression of both mRNA and protein levels for a number of the cholesterol biosynthetic enzymes. Transcription of NPC1L1 and genes of the cholesterol synthesis pathway is predominantly regulated by SREBP-2, especially after treatment with a statin. Immunoblot analyses revealed a significant decrease in transcriptionally active SREBP-2 levels upon ligand treatment, whereas the precursor form of SREBP-2 was modestly increased by AHR activation. Mechanistic insights indicate that AHR induces proteolytic degradation of mature SREBP-2 in a calcium-dependent manner, which correlates with the AHR ligand-mediated upregulation of the transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V member 6 (TRPV6) gene encoding for a membrane calcium channel. These observations emphasize a role for AHR in the systemic homeostatic regulation of cholesterol synthesis and absorption, indicating the potential use of this receptor as a target for the treatment of hyperlipidosis-associated metabolic diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)250-264
Number of pages15
JournalLaboratory Investigation
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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