The evolution of aryl hydrocarbon signaling proteins: diversity of ARNT isoforms among fish species. Academic Article uri icon


  • The aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator (ARNT) mediates aryl hydrocarbon signaling and toxicity by dimerizing with the ligand-activated aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR), forming a complex that binds specific DNA elements and alters transcription of target genes. Two genes encode different forms of ARNT in rodents: ARNT1, which is widely expressed, and ARNT2, which exhibits a very restricted expression pattern. In an effort to characterize aryl hydrocarbon signaling mechanisms in fishes, we previously isolated an ARNT cDNA from Fundulus heteroclitus and discovered that this species expresses ARNT2 ubiquitously. This situation differs not only from mammals, but also from rainbow trout, which expresses a divergent ARNT gene that we hypothesized was peculiar to salmonids (rtARNTa/b). In this communication, we examine the ARNT sequences of multiple fish species, including a newly isolated cDNA from scup (Stenotomus chrysops). Our phylogenetic analysis demonstrates that zebrafish ARNT, like the Fundulus protein, is an ARNT2. Contrary to expectations, the scup ARNT is closely related to the rainbow trout protein, demonstrating that the existence of this ARNT isoform predates the divergence of salmonids from the other teleosts. Thus, different species of fish express distinct and highly conserved isoforms of ARNT. The number, type, and expression pattern of ARNT proteins may contribute to interspecies differences in aryl hydrocarbon toxicity, possibly through distinct interactions with additional PAS-family proteins.

publication date

  • July 2000