Functional diversity of vertebrate ARNT proteins: identification of ARNT2 as the predominant form of ARNT in the marine teleost, Fundulus heteroclitus. Academic Article uri icon


  • The aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator (ARNT) is a member of the bHLH/PAS protein superfamily. ARNT dimerizes with several PAS superfamily members, including the ligand-activated aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR), forming a complex that alters transcription by binding specific elements within the promoters of target genes. Two genes encode different forms of the protein in rodents: ARNT1, which is widely expressed, and ARNT2, which is limited to the brain and kidneys of adults and specific neural and branchial tissues of embryos. In an effort to characterize aryl hydrocarbon signaling mechanisms in Fundulus heteroclitus, a marine teleost that can develop heritable xenobiotic resistance, we have isolated a liver cDNA encoding an ARNT homolog. The protein exhibits AHR-dependent DNA binding capability typical of other vertebrate ARNTs. Unexpectedly, phylogenetic analysis reveals that the cDNA encodes an ARNT2. This is the only detectable ARNT sequence in Fundulus liver, gill, ovary, and brain, suggesting that ARNT2 is the predominant form of ARNT in this species. Also surprising is the relative lack of sequence identity with another fish ARNT protein, rainbow trout ARNTb, which we show forms a distinct branch outside the ARNT1 and ARNT2 clades in phylogenetic analyses. Functional diversity of ARNT proteins in fish may have important implications for the assessment of aryl hydrocarbon effects on natural populations. The increasing use of fish models in developmental and toxicological studies underscores the importance of identifying taxon-specific roles of ARNT proteins and their potential dimeric partners in the PAS superfamily.

publication date

  • January 1, 1999