Professional Education

  • Doctor of Philosophy, Oregon State University (2013)
  • Bachelor of Science, Oregon State University (2006)

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All Publications

  • The aryl hydrocarbon receptor mediates raloxifene-induced apoptosis in estrogen receptor-negative hepatoma and breast cancer cells. Cell death & disease O'Donnell, E. F., Koch, D. C., Bisson, W. H., Jang, H. S., Kolluri, S. K. 2014; 5: e1038


    Identification of new molecular targets for the treatment of breast cancer is an important clinical goal, especially for triple-negative breast cancer, which is refractory to existing targeted treatments. The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) is a ligand-activated transcription factor known primarily as the mediator of dioxin toxicity. However, the AhR can also inhibit cellular proliferation in a ligand-dependent manner and act as a tumor suppressor in mice, and thus may be a potential anticancer target. To investigate the AhR as an anticancer target, we conducted a small molecule screen to discover novel AhR ligands with anticancer properties. We identified raloxifene, a selective estrogen receptor (ER) modulator currently used in the clinic for prevention of ER-positive breast cancer and osteoporosis in post-menopausal women, as an AhR activator. Raloxifene directly bound the AhR and induced apoptosis in ER-negative mouse and human hepatoma cells in an AhR-dependent manner, indicating that the AhR is a molecular target of raloxifene and mediates raloxifene-induced apoptosis in the absence of ER. Raloxifene selectively induced apoptosis of triple-negative MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells compared with non-transformed mammary epithelial cells via the AhR. Combined with recent data showing that raloxifene inhibits triple-negative breast cancer xenografts in vivo (Int J Oncol. 43(3):785-92, 2013), our results support the possibility of repurposing of raloxifene as an AhR-targeted therapeutic for triple-negative breast cancer patients. To this end, we also evaluated the role of AhR expression on survival of patients diagnosed with breast cancer. We found that higher expression of the AhR is significantly associated with increased overall survival and distant metastasis-free survival in both hormone-dependent (ER-positive) and hormone-independent (ER and progesterone receptor (PR)-negative) breast cancers. Together, our data strongly support the possibility of using the AhR as a molecular target for the treatment of hormone-independent breast cancers.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/cddis.2013.549

    View details for PubMedID 24481452

  • Estrogen-Like Activity of Perfluoroalkyl Acids In Vivo and Interaction with Human and Rainbow Trout Estrogen Receptors In Vitro TOXICOLOGICAL SCIENCES Benninghoff, A. D., Bisson, W. H., Koch, D. C., Ehresman, D. J., Kolluri, S. K., William, D. E. 2011; 120 (1): 42-58


    The objectives of this study were to determine the structural characteristics of perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) that confer estrogen-like activity in vivo using juvenile rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) as an animal model and to determine whether these chemicals interact directly with the estrogen receptor (ER) using in vitro and in silico species comparison approaches. Perfluorooctanoic (PFOA), perfluorononanoic (PFNA), perfluorodecanoic (PFDA), and perfluoroundecanoic (PFUnDA) acids were all potent inducers of the estrogen-responsive biomarker protein vitellogenin (Vtg) in vivo, although at fairly high dietary exposures. A structure-activity relationship for PFAAs was observed, where eight to ten fluorinated carbons and a carboxylic acid end group were optimal for maximal Vtg induction. These in vivo findings were corroborated by in vitro mechanistic assays for trout and human ER. All PFAAs tested weakly bound to trout liver ER with half maximal inhibitory concentration (IC(50)) values of 15.2-289 ?M. Additionally, PFOA, PFNA, PFDA, PFUnDA, and perlfuorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) significantly enhanced human ER?-dependent transcriptional activation at concentrations ranging from 10-1000 nM. Finally, we employed an in silico computational model based upon the crystal structure for the human ER? ligand-binding domain complexed with E2 to structurally investigate binding of these putative ligands to human, mouse, and trout ER?. PFOA, PFNA, PFDA, and PFOS all efficiently docked with ER? from different species and formed a hydrogen bond at residue Arg394/398/407 (human/mouse/trout) in a manner similar to the environmental estrogens bisphenol A and nonylphenol. Overall, these data support the contention that several PFAAs are weak environmental xenoestrogens of potential concern.

    View details for DOI 10.1093/toxsci/kfq379

    View details for Web of Science ID 000287747800004

    View details for PubMedID 21163906

  • The Anti-Inflammatory Drug Leflunomide Is an Agonist of the Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor PLOS ONE O'Donnell, E. F., Saili, K. S., Koch, D. C., Kopparapu, P. R., Farrer, D., Bisson, W. H., Mathew, L. K., Sengupta, S., Kerkvliet, N. I., Tanguay, R. L., Kolluri, S. K. 2010; 5 (10)


    The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) is a ligand-activated transcription factor that mediates the toxicity and biological activity of dioxins and related chemicals. The AhR influences a variety of processes involved in cellular growth and differentiation, and recent studies have suggested that the AhR is a potential target for immune-mediated diseases.During a screen for molecules that activate the AhR, leflunomide, an immunomodulatory drug presently used in the clinic for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, was identified as an AhR agonist. We aimed to determine whether any biological activity of leflunomide could be attributed to a previously unappreciated interaction with the AhR. The currently established mechanism of action of leflunomide involves its metabolism to A771726, possibly by cytochrome P450 enzymes, followed by inhibition of de novo pyrimidine biosynthesis by A771726. Our results demonstrate that leflunomide, but not its metabolite A771726, caused nuclear translocation of AhR into the nucleus and increased expression of AhR-responsive reporter genes and endogenous AhR target genes in an AhR-dependent manner. In silico Molecular Docking studies employing AhR ligand binding domain revealed favorable binding energy for leflunomide, but not for A771726. Further, leflunomide, but not A771726, inhibited in vivo epimorphic regeneration in a zebrafish model of tissue regeneration in an AhR-dependent manner. However, suppression of lymphocyte proliferation by leflunomide or A771726 was not dependent on AhR.These data reveal that leflunomide, an anti-inflammatory drug, is an agonist of the AhR. Our findings link AhR activation by leflunomide to inhibition of fin regeneration in zebrafish. Identification of alternative AhR agonists is a critical step in evaluating the AhR as a therapeutic target for the treatment of immune disorders.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0013128

    View details for Web of Science ID 000282359300022

    View details for PubMedID 20957046

  • Modeling of the Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor (AhR) Ligand Binding Domain and Its Utility in Virtual Ligand Screening to Predict New AhR Ligands JOURNAL OF MEDICINAL CHEMISTRY Bisson, W. H., Koch, D. C., O'Donnell, E. F., Khalil, S. M., Kerkvliet, N. I., Tanguay, R. L., Abagyan, R., Kolluri, S. K. 2009; 52 (18): 5635-5641


    The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) is a ligand-activated transcription factor; the AhR Per-AhR/Arnt-Sim (PAS) domain binds ligands. We developed homology models of the AhR PAS domain to characterize previously observed intra- and interspecies differences in ligand binding using molecular docking. In silico structure-based virtual ligand screening using our model resulted in the identification of pinocembrin and 5-hydroxy-7-methoxyflavone, which promoted nuclear translocation and transcriptional activation of AhR and AhR-dependent induction of endogenous target genes.

    View details for DOI 10.1021/jm900199u

    View details for Web of Science ID 000269746600010

    View details for PubMedID 19719119

  • Atmospherically deposited PBDEs, pesticides, PCBs, and PAHs in Western US National Park fish: Concentrations and consumption guidelines ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY Ackerman, L. K., Schwindt, A. R., Simonich, S. L., Koch, D. C., Blett, T. F., Schreck, C. B., Kent, M. L., Landers, D. H. 2008; 42 (7): 2334-2341


    Concentrations of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons were measured in 136 fish from 14 remote lakes in 8 western U.S. National Parks/Preserves between 2003 and 2005 and compared to human and wildlife contaminant health thresholds. A sensitive (median detection limit--18 pg/g wet weight), efficient (61% recovery at 8 ng/g), reproducible (4.1% relative standard deviation (RSD)), and accurate (7% deviation from standard reference material (SRM)) analytical method was developed and validated for these analyses. Concentrations of PCBs, hexachlorobenzene, hexachlorocyclohexanes, DDTs, and chlordanes in western U.S. fish were comparable to or lower than mountain fish recently collected from Europe, Canada, and Asia. Dieldrin and PBDE concentrations were higher than recent measurements in mountain fish and Pacific Ocean salmon. Concentrations of most contaminants in western U.S. fish were 1-6 orders of magnitude below calculated recreational fishing contaminant health thresholds. However, lake average contaminant concentrations in fish exceeded subsistence fishing cancer thresholds in 8 of 14 lakes and wildlife contaminant health thresholds for piscivorous birds in 1 of 14 lakes. These results indicate that atmospherically deposited organic contaminants can accumulate in high elevation fish, reaching concentrations relevant to human and wildlife health.

    View details for DOI 10.1021/es702348j

    View details for Web of Science ID 000254492800022

    View details for PubMedID 18504962

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