The aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator (ARNT) is a transcription factor present in immune cells as a long and short isoform, referred to as isoforms 1 and 3, respectively. However, investigation into potential ARNT isoform–specific immune functions is lacking despite the well-established heterodimerization requirement of ARNT with, and for the activity of, the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), a critical mediator of immune homeostasis. Here, using global and targeted transcriptomics analyses, we show that the relative ARNT isoform 1:3 ratio in human T cell lymphoma cells dictates the amplitude and direction of AhR target gene regulation. Specifically, shifting the ARNT isoform 1:3 ratio lower by suppressing isoform 1 enhances, or higher by suppressing isoform 3 abrogates, AhR responsiveness to ligand activation through preprograming a cellular genetic background that directs explicit gene expression patterns. Moreover, the fluctuations in gene expression patterns that accompany a decrease or increase in the ARNT isoform 1:3 ratio are associated with inflammation or immunosuppression, respectively. Molecular studies identified the unique casein kinase 2 (CK2) phosphorylation site within isoform 1 as an essential parameter to the mechanism of ARNT isoform–specific regulation of AhR signaling. Notably, CK2-mediated phosphorylation of ARNT isoform 1 is dependent on ligand-induced AhR nuclear translocation and is required for optimal AhR target gene regulation. These observations reveal ARNT as a central modulator of AhR activity predicated on the status of the ARNT isoform ratio and suggest that ARNT-based therapies are a viable option for tuning the immune system to target immune disorders.
|Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
|Published - Mar 22 2022
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