Aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) activation via 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzofuran (TCDF) induces the accumulation of hepatic lipids. Here we report that AHR activation by TCDF (24 μg/kg body weight given orally for five days) induced significant elevation of hepatic lipids including ceramides in mice, was associated with increased expression of key ceramide biosynthetic genes, and increased activity of their respective enzymes. Results from chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP), electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) and cell-based reporter luciferase assays indicated that AHR directly activated the serine palmitoyltransferase long chain base subunit 2 (Sptlc2, encodes serine palmitoyltransferase 2 (SPT2)) gene whose product catalyzes the initial rate-limiting step in de novo sphingolipid biosynthesis. Hepatic ceramide accumulation was further confirmed by mass spectrometry-based lipidomics. Taken together, our results revealed that AHR activation results in the up-regulation of Sptlc2, leading to ceramide accumulation, thus promoting lipogenesis, which can induce hepatic lipid accumulation.
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