Activation of dioxin response element (DRE)-associated genes by benzo(a)pyrene 3,6-quinone and benzo(a)pyrene 1,6-quinone in MCF-10A human mammary epithelial cells. Academic Article uri icon


  • Benzo(a)pyrene (BaP) is a known human carcinogen and a suspected breast cancer complete carcinogen. BaP is metabolized by several metabolic pathways, some having bioactivation and others detoxification properties. BaP-quinones (BPQs) are formed via cytochrome P450 and peroxidase dependent pathways. Previous studies by our laboratory have shown that BPQs have significant growth promoting and anti-apoptotic activities in human MCF-10A mammary epithelial cells examined in vitro. Previous results suggest that BPQs act via redox-cycling and oxidative stress. However, because two specific BPQs (1,6-BPQ and 3,6-BPQ) differed in their ability to produce reactive oxygen species (ROS) and yet both had strong proliferative and EGF receptor activating activity, we utilized mRNA expression arrays and qRT-PCR to determine potential pathways and mechanisms of gene activation. The results of the present studies demonstrated that 1,6-BPQ and 3,6-BPQ activate dioxin response elements (DRE, also known as xenobiotic response elements, XRE) and anti-oxidant response elements (ARE, also known as electrophile response elements, EpRE). 3,6-BPQ had greater DRE activity than 1,6-BPQ, whereas the opposite was true for the activation of ARE. Both 3,6-BPQ and 1,6-BPQ induced oxidative stress-associated genes (HMOX1, GCLC, GCLM, and SLC7A11), phase 2 enzyme genes (NQO1, NQO2, ALDH3A1), PAH metabolizing genes (CYP1B1, EPHX1, AKR1C1), and certain EGF receptor-associated genes (EGFR, IER3, ING1, SQSTM1 and TRIM16). The results of these studies demonstrate that BPQs activate numerous pathways in human mammary epithelial cells associated with increased cell growth and survival that may play important roles in tumor promotion.

publication date

  • January 1, 2007