Vitamin A (retinoids) has an essential role in development and throughout life of humans and animals. Consequently, effects of the environmental pollutant 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) on retinoid metabolism may be contributory to its toxicity. This study was performed to clarify the mechanism behind dioxin-induced retinyl ester formation in the rat kidney. In addition we investigated the possible role of CYP1A1 in dioxin-induced all-trans-retinoic acid (atRA) formation. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were exposed to a single oral dose of TCDD in a combined dose-response and time-course study, with doses ranging from 0.1 to 100 μg/kgbw and time points from 1 to 28 days. Levels of atRA and the expression of two potentially retinoic acid (RA)-controlled proteins critically involved in retinoid storage regulation, lecithin: retinol acyltransferase (LRAT) and cellular retinol binding protein I (CRBP I), were analyzed in liver and kidney. The expression and activity of cytochrome P4501A1 (assayed as ethoxyresorufin-O-deethylase activity) was assessed to gain insight into its potential role in RA synthesis. There was a significant increase in LRAT mRNA expression in the kidney, whereas no such increase could be observed in the liver, despite significantly increased atRA levels in both tissues. This suggests a tissue-specific regulation of LRAT by TCDD that may be dependent on other factors than atRA. Neither CRBP I mRNA nor protein levels were altered by TCDD. The time-course relationship between CYP1A1 activity and atRA levels in liver and kidney does not exclude a role of CYP1A1 in TCDD-induced RA synthesis. The observed altered regulation of the retinoid-metabolizing enzyme LRAT, together with the low doses and short time required by TCDD to change tissue RA levels, suggest that enzymes involved in retinoid metabolism are specific and/or direct targets of TCDD.
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