1-Methyl-D-tryptophan activates aryl hydrocarbon receptor, a pathway associated with bladder cancer progression

Bladder Cancer

BMC Cancer. 2020 Sep 9;20(1):869. doi: 10.1186/s12885-020-07371-6.


BACKGROUND: Indoleamine 2, 3-dioxygenase-1 (IDO1) is a promising target for immunotherapy in bladder cancer (BC). IDO1 breaks-down tryptophan to generate kynurenine derivatives, which may activate the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR). AHR is an important target for carcinogens, but its association with BC progression was unknown. Two IDO1 inhibitors used in clinical trials are 1-methyl-D-tryptophan (MT) and INCB240360. Because MT is an aromatic hydrocarbon, it may be a ligand for AHR. We hypothesized that AHR could be associated with BC progression and that MT could activate AHR in BC.

METHODS: BC patients (n = 165) were selected from the Gene Expression Omnibus database. A cut-off point for relative expression of AHR and cytochrome 450 enzymes (CYP1A1, CYP1A2, and CYP1B1; markers of AHR activation) was determined to compare with the grade, stage, and tumor progression. For in vitro experiments, RT4 (grade 1) and T24 (grade 3) BC cells were incubated with MT and INCB240360 to evaluate the expression of AHR and CYP1A1.

RESULTS: AHR activation was associated with grade, stage, and progression of BC. T24 cells express more CYP1A1 than RT4 cells. Although IDO1 expression and kynurenine production are elevated in T24 cells concomitantly to CYP1A1 expression, IDO1 inhibitors were not able to decrease CYP1A1 expression, in contrast, MT significantly increased it in both cell lines.

CONCLUSION: In conclusion, it is rational to inhibit IDO1 in BC, among other factors because it contributes to AHR activation. However, MT needs to be carefully evaluated for BC because it is an AHR pathway agonist independently of its effects on IDO1.