Why are chickens so sensitive to dioxins, but terns seem much more resistant, despite their exposure through eating dioxin-tainted fish? The life-or-death difference researchers have found can be partially explained by two amino acids in the chain of 858 amino acids that form one critical protein.
The slight difference apparently changes the three-dimensional shape of the protein, known as the aryl hydrocarbon receptor, allowing dioxin to bind more easily to the chicken receptor’s dioxin-binding site, like a key in a lock, and trigger harmful effects. The dioxin “key” does not fit as smoothly into the tern receptor’s binding site.
The findings, reported recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, advance the possibility of a test that wildlife managers could use to assess dioxin sensitivity in wild animal populations, said Sibel Karchner, a researcher at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and lead author of the PNAS paper.
Shelley Dawicki | EurekAlert!
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