Dysregulation of Notch and ERα signaling in AhR-/- male mice

Bo Huang, Ryan Butler, Yifei Miao, Yubing Dai, Wanfu Wu, Wen Su, Yoshiaki Fujii-Kuriyama, Margaret Warner, Jan Åke Gustafsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) is now recognized as an important physiological regulator in the immune and reproductive systems, and in the development of the liver and vascular system. AhR regulates cell cycle, cell proliferation, and differentiation through interacting with other signaling pathways, like estrogen receptor α (ERα), androgen receptor (AR), and Notch signaling. In the present study, we investigated Notch andestrogensignalinginAhR-/- mice. We found low fertility with degenerative changes in the testes, germ cell apoptosis, and a reduced number of early spermatids. There was no change in aromatase, AR, ERα, or ERβ expression in the testis and no detectable change in serum estrogen levels. However, expression of Notch receptors (Notch1 and Notch3) and their target Hairy and Enhancer of Split homolog 1 (HES1) was reduced. In addition, the testosterone level was slightly reduced in the serum. In the mammary fat pad, AhR appeared to regulate estrogen signaling because, in AhR-/- males, there was significant growth of the mammary ducts with high expression of ERα in the ductal epithelium. The enhanced mammary ductal growth appears to be related to overexpression of ERα accompanied by a high proliferation index, whereas the reduced fertility appears to be related defects in Notch signaling that leads to reduced expression of HES1 and, consequently, early maturation of spermatocytes and a depletion of primary spermatids. Previous reports have indicated that AhR pathway is associated with infertility in men. Our results provide a mechanistic explanation for this defect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11883-11888
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number42
StatePublished - Oct 18 2016


  • Aryl hydrocarbon receptor
  • Germ cell apoptosis
  • Low fertility
  • Mammary gland
  • Testosterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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