The transcription factors aryl hydrocarbon receptor and MYC cooperate in the regulation of cellular metabolism

M. Carmen Lafita-Navarro, Lizbeth Perez-Castro, Lauren G. Zacharias, Spencer Barnes, Ralph J. DeBerardinis, Maralice Conacci-Sorrell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The transcription factor aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) drives the expression of genes involved in detoxification pathways in cells exposed to pollutants and other small molecules. Moreover, AHR supports transcriptional programs that promote ribosome biogenesis and protein synthesis in cells stimulated to proliferate by the oncoprotein MYC. Thus, AHR is necessary for the proliferation of MYC-overexpressing cells. To define metabolic pathways in which AHR cooperates with MYC in supporting cell growth, here we used LC–MS-based metabolomics to examine the metabolome of MYC-expressing cells upon AHR knockdown. We found that AHR knockdown reduced lactate, S-lactoyl-glutathione, N-acetyl-Lalanine, 2-hydroxyglutarate, and uridine-5monophosphate (UMP) levels. Using our previously obtained RNA-seq data, we found that AHR mediates the expression of the UMP-generating enzymes dihydroorotate dehydrogenase (quinone) (DHODH) and uridine monophosphate synthetase (UMPS), as well as lactate dehydrogenase A (LDHA), establishing a mechanism by which AHR regulates lactate and UMP production in MYC-overexpressing cells. AHR knockdown in glioblastoma cells also reduced the expression of LDHA (and lactate), DHODH, and UMPS, but did not affect UMP levels, likely due to compensatory mechanisms in these cells. Our results indicate that AHR contributes to the regulation of metabolic pathways necessary for the proliferation of transformed cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number35
StatePublished - Aug 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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