2015 Volume 40 Issue 6 Pages 777-786
Aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) is a transcription factor activated by xenobiotics, including dioxins and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Although AhR is also activated by some dietary constituents, it has not been completely clarified in what circumstances AhR ligands are ingested in our daily life. Because PAHs are formed by the incomplete combustion of organic materials, we hypothesized that scorched foods might contain and leach out AhR ligands sufficient to stimulate AhR in vitro. To test this hypothesis, scorched foods (bread, cheese, etc.) were mixed vigorously with water, and the supernatants were retrieved as samples. The samples were added to HepG2 cells stably expressing an AhR-responsive reporter gene. Also, expression of CYP1A1, an endogenous AhR-responsive gene, was analyzed by RT-PCR in different cell lines treated with the samples. We further tested whether pretreatment of the samples with activated charcoal would alter their AhR-stimulating activity. All the supernatant samples tested induced AhR-dependent reporter gene activity and CYP1A1 mRNA expression. In some samples, these inductions were inhibited by pretreatment with activated charcoal. Our findings indicate that scorched food leachates stimulate AhR in cultured cells and that activated charcoal adsorbs the AhR-stimulating substances in some leachates. Thus, people who habitually eat scorched foods are exposed to AhR ligands on a regular basis. Further studies are needed to elucidate whether burnt foods actually exert biological effects on our health.