Highly reactive quinone species produced by photooxidation and/or metabolic activation of mono- or bi-aromatic hydrocarbons modulate cellular homeostasis and electrophilic signal transduction pathways through the covalent modification of proteins. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, but not mono- or bi-aromatic hydrocarbons, are well recognized as ligands for the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR). However, quinone species produced from mono- and bi-aromatic hydrocarbons could potentially cause AhR activation. To clarify the AhR response to mono- and bi-aromatic hydrocarbon quinones, we studied Cyp1a1 (cytochrome P450 1A1) induction and AhR activation by these quinones. We detected Cyp1a1 induction during treatment with quinones in Hepa1c1c7 cells, but not their parent compounds. Nine of the twelve quinones with covalent binding capability for proteins induced Cyp1a1. Cyp1a1 induction mediated by 1,2-naphthoquinone (1,2-NQ), 1,4-NQ, 1,4-benzoquinone (1,4-BQ) and tert-butyl-1,4-BQ was suppressed by a specific AhR inhibitor and was not observed in c35 cells, which do not have a functional AhR. These quinones stimulated AhR nuclear translocation and interaction with the AhR nuclear translocator. Interestingly, 1,2-NQ covalently modified AhR, which was detected by an immunoprecipitation assay using a specific antibody against 1,2-NQ, resulting in enhancement of xenobiotic responsive element (XRE)-derived luciferase activity and binding of AhR to the Cyp1a1 promoter region. While mono- and bi-aromatic hydrocarbons are generally believed to be poor ligands for AhR and hence unable to induce Cyp1a1, our study suggests that the quinones of these molecules are able to modify AhR and activate the AhR/XRE pathway, thereby inducing Cyp1a1. Since we previously reported that 1,2-NQ and tert-butyl-1,4-BQ also activate NF-E2-related factor 2, it seems likely that some of quinones are bi-functional inducers for phase-I and phase-II reaction of xenobiotics.
2015 The Japanese Society of Toxicology