Wellington K Hsu, Karina M Katchko, Christian Park, Soyeon Jeong, Chawon Yun, Charlotte H Chen, Samuel I Stupp, Jonghwa Yun, Michael S Schallmo, Erin L Hsu, Andrew George, Joseph A Weiner
The inhibition of bone healing in humans is a well-established effect associated with cigarette smoking, but the underlying mechanisms are still unclear. Recent work using animal cell lines have implicated the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) as a mediator of the anti-osteogenic effects of cigarette smoke, but the complexity of cigarette smoke mixtures makes understanding the mechanisms of action a major challenge. 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD, dioxin) is a high-affinity AhR ligand that is frequently used to investigate biological processes impacted by AhR activation. Since there are dozens of AhR ligands present in cigarette smoke, we utilized dioxin as a prototype ligand to activate the receptor and explore its effects on pro-osteogenic biomarkers and other factors critical to osteogenesis using a human osteoblast-like cell line. We also explored the capacity for AhR antagonists to protect against dioxin action in this context. We found dioxin to inhibit osteogenic differentiation, whereas co-treatment with various AhR antagonists protected against dioxin action. Dioxin also negatively impacted cell adhesion with a corresponding reduction in the expression of integrin and cadherin proteins, which are known to be involved in this process. Similarly, the dioxin-mediated inhibition of cell migration correlated with reduced expression of the chemokine receptor CXCR4 and its ligand, CXCL12, and co-treatment with antagonists restored migratory capacity. Our results suggest that AhR activation may play a role in the bone regenerative response in humans exposed to AhR activators, such as those present in cigarette smoke. Given the similarity of our results using a human cell line to previous work done in murine cells, animal models may yield data relevant to the human setting. In addition, the AhR may represent a potential therapeutic target for orthopedic patients who smoke cigarettes, or those who are exposed to secondhand smoke or other environmental sources of aryl hydrocarbons.