Center for Comparative and Molecular Toxicology

at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Ligand-Receptor Interactions

Cytochrome P450 Diversity

Hormonally Active Agents



The Center for Comparative and Molecular Toxicology represents a group of scientists interested in understanding the biochemical and molecular mechanisms that underlie the interactions of marine animals with their chemical environment. Our approach is to examine these mechanisms from a comparative/phylogenetic perspective, i.e. in a variety of animals, in order to understand the fundamental features of chemical action, including similarities and differences between and among species. Much of our work focuses on the halogenated aromatic hydrocarbons (HAH), a group of chemicals that includes the chlorinated dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls as well as a variety of marine natural products.

Ligand-receptor interactions

Hormonally active agents

Xenobiotic metabolism

Reproductive physiology

Heme biosynthesis

Ligand-receptor interactions:

Ligand-receptor interactions constitute a major mechanism by which chemical-biological interactions are initiated, and provide a focus for our work. The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (Ah receptor) is a ligand-activated transcription factor and the first protein in a signal transduction pathway that culminates in the altered expression of genes involved in the control of cell growth and differentiation. Certain HAH bind to the Ah receptor, triggering this altered gene expression that results in the toxic effects of HAH. The presence and properties of Ah receptors in different animal groups could determine the sensitivity of those groups to HAH effects. We seek to understand the structure and function of the Ah receptor, including its role in determining the ability of marine animals to respond to HAH exposure. Our current research is aimed at the biochemical and molecular characterization of the Ah receptor in non-mammalian vertebrates, including teleost and elasmobranch fish, as well as in marine mammals.

Center Investigators:


Recent publications:

See "Hahn Lab publications"

 See "Stegeman Lab publications"

 See "Michael Moore publications"

For additional information, contact:

Mark E. Hahn, Ph.D.
Associate Scientist
Biology Department, MS-32
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Woods Hole, MA 02543-1049


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