Assessing anti-estrogenic effects of AHR ligands in primary human and rat endometrial epithelial cells

A. D. van den Brand*, E. Rubinstein, P. C. de Jong, M. van den Berg, M. B.M. van Duursen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Unopposed estrogenic action in the uterus can lead to the development of endometrial cancer in both humans and rats. Aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) activation gives rise to anti-estrogenic actions and may consequently reduce the development of endometrial cancer. In this study, the anti-estrogenic potential of the AHR ligands 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) and DELAQ, a metabolite of the pharmaceutical laquinimod, was assessed in in primary human and rat endometrial epithelial cells (EECs) with and without co-exposure to endogenous hormones. In human EECs, estradiol and progesterone did not affect AHR gene expression, but in rat EECs, progesterone decreased Ahre xpression (1.4-fold). In accordance, AHR-mediated induction of Cyp1a1/1b1 expression by DELAQ and TCDD decreased in hormone-treated rat EECs. DELAQ was 22-fold more potent than TCDD in human EECs in inducing CYP1A1/1B1 gene expression, while DELAQ was approximately 16−33-fold less potent than TCDD in rat EECs. In human EECs, 10 nM DELAQ decreased estradiol-induced expression of growth-regulated estrogen receptor binding 1 (GREB1) by 1.8-fold. In rat EECs, both DELAQ and TCDD did not affect the expression of estradiol-induced genes. This study shows that AHR ligand DELAQ, but not TCDD, causes anti-estrogenic effects in primary human EECs. Furthermore, although AHR-mediated CYP1A1/1B1/Cyp1a1/1b1 induction by DELAQ and TCDD was stronger in rat EECs than human EECs, this did not result in apparent anti-estrogenic effects in the rat cells. This study shows that primary human and rat endometrial cells respond differently towards hormones and AHR ligands. This should be considered in human risk assessment based on rodent studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-208
Number of pages7
JournalReproductive Toxicology
Early online date12 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


  • (Anti)-estrogenicity
  • Aryl hydrocarbon receptor
  • Endometrium


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