Background: Obesity is a growing worldwide problem with genetic and environmental causes, and it is an underlying basis for many diseases. Studies have shown that the toxicant-activated aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) may disrupt fat metabolism and contribute to obesity. The AHR is a nuclear receptor/transcription factor that is best known for responding to environmental toxicant exposures to induce a battery of xenobiotic-metabolizing genes. Objectives: The intent of the work reported here was to test more directly the role of the AHR in obesity and fat metabolism in lieu of exogenous toxicants. Methods: We used two congenic mouse models that differ at the Ahr gene and encode AHRs with a 10-fold difference in signaling activity. The two mouse strains were fed either a low-fat (regular) diet or a high-fat (Western) diet. Results: The Western diet differentially affected body size, body fat:body mass ratios, liver size and liver metabolism, and liver mRNA and miRNA profiles. The regular diet had no significant differential effects. Conclusions: The results suggest that the AHR plays a large and broad role in obesity and associated complications, and importantly, may provide a simple and effective therapeutic strategy to combat obesity, heart disease, and other obesity-associated illnesses.
- Aryl hydrocarbon receptor
- Gene-environment interaction
- Western diet
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis