Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type





Nutritional Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Willem JS de Villiers


Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor (AhR) is a ligand-actviated receptor known as the dioxin receptor. Environmental pollutants called dioxin-like toxicants are found in food, cigarette smoke, automobile exhaust and air. Therefore, they could chronically amplify the pathology of numerous chronic inflammatory diseases. AhR is a well known target of these environmental chemicals that disrupt endocrine signaling. By the year 2020, the number of people older than 60 years is expected to top 1 billion. The burden of treating chronic disease is significant both in dollars spent and in lost productivity. The need to identify risk factors for chronic diseases must be evaluated along with diet and lifestyle factors that will promote healthy aging.

The studies presented in this dissertation tested the hypothesis that habitual exposure to dioxin-like contaminants contributes to chronic inflammatory disease states through activation of AhR pathway. Due to their lipophilicity, dioxin like toxicants (like PCB 77) accumulated in mice' visceral adipose tissue and induced adipocytes maturation and ectopic fat deposition. Exposure to persistent organic pollutants, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB 77) can cause endothelial cells activation and inflammation by inducing pro-inflammatory signaling pathways. In our studies, PCB 77 had cumulative effects in Angiotensin II - induced Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) by exacerbating inflammation in and around the aortic wall. More, PCB 77 increased mortality in mice that developed AAA.

In order to appreciate the AhR involvement in inflammation we used a mouse model of Inflammatory Bowel Disease(IBD). Mice that had a reduced Ahr Receptor expression developed a less severe colitis and had a decreased general inflammatory status.

These data provide evidence that exposure to environmental toxicants could augment inflammation and contribute to the social burden of obesity and obesity related chronic inflammatory diseases.



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