Oliver Hankinson

Dr. Hankinson is a Professor of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine and of Environmental Health Sciences, and Chair of the Interdepartmental Doctoral Program in Molecular Toxicology. He graduated summa cum laude with a B.Sc. in Genetics from Edinburgh University, Scotland. He then taught high school in Tanzania as a member of Voluntary Service Overseas (the British equivalent of Peace Corps). He received his Ph.D. in genetics from Cambridge University, England, in 1972. He did postdoctoral research in genetics at Harvard University, the University of Colorado, and the University of California, Berkeley, before joining the UCLA faculty in 1979. He was Director of the Carcinogenesis program of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center from 1994 to 2003, and Vice-Chair for Research of the Department of Pathology from 1997 to 2003. In 2000 he was founding chair of the Molecular Toxicology Ph.D. program, and he continues to serve in this role. He is currently a Distinguished Research Professor.

Oliver Hankinson pursues research on the Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor (AHR), a cellular protein that (among other things) mediates the carcinogenic, and other toxic effects of a variety of chemical pollutants, including dioxin, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and PCBs (found in smog, cigarettes smoke and overcooked foods). His contributions in this area include the identification, cloning and functional characterization of ARNT. ARNT was the first subunit of the AHR to be cloned, and represented the first mammalian representative of a new class of transcription factor – the bHLH-PAS (basic helix-loop-helix Per-Arnt-Sim) class. Subsequently, the Nobel prizes in Medicine in 2017 and in 2019 were awarded to studies on bHLH-PAS transcription factors. His current research also focuses on the how dietary omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (found in fatty fish) inhibit the growth and metastasis of breast cancer, and on identifying individuals who are particularly responsive to the protective effects of these nutrients.

His honors include the 1990-1991 Distinguished Lecturship of the Associated Western Universities/Department of Energy, the 2011 Distinguished Toxicology Award and the 2019 Education Award from the Society of Toxicology. In 2013 he was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


  • B.Sc. Genetics, University of Edinburgh, UK
  • Ph.D. Genetics, Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK

Selected Publications

Hankinson, O. (1979). Single-step selection of clones of a mouse hepatoma line deficient in aryl hydrocarbon hydroxylase. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 76:373-376. PMID: 106390, PMCID: PMC382941 doi:10.1073/pnas.76.1.373.

Legraverend, C., Hannah, R., Eisen, H., Owens, O., Nebert, D., Hankinson, O. (1982). Regulatory gene product of the Ah locus: Characterization of receptor mutants among mouse hepatoma clones. J.Biol. Chem. 257:6402-6407. PMID: 6896205.

Hankinson, O. (1983). Dominant and recessive aryl hydrocarbon hydroxylase-deficient mutants of mouse hepatoma line, Hepa-1, and assignment of recessive mutants to three completmentation groups. Somat. Cell Genet. 9:497-514. doi: 10.1007/BF01543050. PMID: 6623311.

Van Gurp, J.R., Hankinson, O. (1983). Single-step phototoxic selection procedure for isolating cells that possess aryl hydrocarbon hydroxylase. Canc. Res. 43:6031-6038. PMID: 6640544.

Hankinson, O., Andersen RD, Birren BW, Sander F, Negishi M, Nebert DW. (1985) Mutations affecting the regulation of transcription of the cytochrome P1-450 gene in the mouse Hepa-1 cell line. J Biol Chem 260(3):1790-5.PMID: 3968086.

Hoffman, E.C., Reyes, H., Chu, F., Sander, F., Conley, L.H., Brooks, B.A., Hankinson, O. (1991). Cloning of a factor required for activity of the Ah (dioxin) receptor. Science.252:954-958. doi: 10.1126/science. PMID: 1852076.

Reyes, H., Reisz-Porszasz, S., Hankinson, O., (1992). Identification of the Ah Receptor Nuclear Translocator Protein (Arnt) as a component of the DNA building form of the Ah receptor. Science. 256:1193-1195. doi: 10.1126/science.256.5060.1193. PMID: 1317062.

Watson, A.J., Hankinson, O. (1992). Dioxin- and Ah receptor-dependent protein binding to xenobiotic responsive elements and G-rich DNA studied by in vivo footprinting. J. Biol. Chem. 266: 6874-6878.  PMID: 1313025

Reisz-Porszasz, S., Probst, M.R. Fukunaga, B.N., Hankinson, O. (1994). Identification of Functional Domains of the Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Nuclear Translocator Protein (ARNT). Mol. Cell. Biol. 14:6075-6086. doi: 10.1128/mcb.14.9.6075-6086.1994. PMCID: PMC359134.

Hankinson, O. (1995). The aryl hydrocarbon receptor complex. Annu Rev Pharmacol Toxicol.35:307-40. doi: 10.1146/annurev.pa.35.040195.001515. PMID: 7598497.

Fukunaga, B.N., Probst, M.R., Reisz-Porszasz, S., Hankinson, O. (1995). Identification of Functional Domains of the Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor. J. Biol. Chem. 270:29270-29278. doi: 10.1074/jbc.270.49.29270. PMID: 7493958.

Fukunaga, B.N., Hankinson, O. (1996). Identification of a Novel Domain in The Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Required for DNA Binding. J. Biol. Chem. 271:3743-3749. doi: 10.1074/jbc.271.7.3743. PMID: 8631989.

Bacsi, S., Hankinson, O. (1996). Functional Characterization of DNA-Binding Domains of The Subunits of the Heterodimeric Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Complex Imputing Novel and Canonical Basic Helix-loop-Helix Protein-DNA Interactions. J. Biol. Chem. 271:8843-8850. doi: 10.1074/jbc.271.15.8843.PMID: 8621524.

Wood, S.M., Gleadle, J.M., Pugh, C.W., Hankinson, O., Ratcliffe, P.J. (1996). The Role of the Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Nuclear Translocator (ARNT) in Hypoxic Induction of Gene Expresssion: Studies in ARNT Deficient Cells. J. Biol. Chem 271:15117-15123. doi: 10.1074/jbc.271.25.15117. PMID: 8662957.

Maxwell, P.H., Dachs, G.U., Gleadle, J.M., Nicholls, L.G., Harris, A.L., Stratford, I.J., Hankinson, O., Pugh, C.W., Ratcliffe, P.J. (1997). Hypoxia-inducible factor-1 modulates gene expression in solid tumors and influences both angiogenesis and tumor growth. Proc.Natl. Acad. Sci. 94:8104-8109. doi: 10.1073/pnas.94.15.8104. PMID: 9223322 PMCID: PMC21564.

Kozak, K., Abbott, B., and Hankinson, O. (1997). ARNT-Deficient Mice and Placental Differentiation. Dev. Biol. 91:297-305. doi: 10.1006/dbio.1997.8758. PMID: 9398442.

Beischlag, T.V., Wang, S., Torchia, J., Reisz-Porszasz, S., Muhammad, K., Nelson, W.E., Probst, M.R., Rosenfeld, M.G., Hankinson, O. (2002). Recruitment of the NCoA/SRC-1/p160 Family of Transcriptional Co-activators by the Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor/Aryl HydrocarbonReceptor Nuclear Translocator Complex. Mol. Cell. Biol. 22:4319-4333. doi: 10.1128/MCB.22.12.4319-4333.2002. PMID: 12024042. 

Wang S., Hankinson, O. (2002). Functional involvement of the Brahma/SW12-related gene 1 protein in cytochrome P4501A1 transcription mediated by the aryl hydrocarbon receptor complex. J Biol Chem.;277:11821-7. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110122200. PMID: 11805098.

Wang, S., Ge, K., Roeder, R.G., Hankinson, O. (2004). Role of Mediator in Transcriptional Activation by the Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor. J. Biol. Chem. 279:13593-13600. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M312274200. PMID: 14729673.

Beischlag, T.V., Taylor, R.T., Rose, D.W., Yoon, D., Chen, Y., Lee, W.H., Rosenfeld, M.G., Hankinson, O. (2004). Recruitment of Thyroid Hormone Receptor/Retinoblastoma Interacting Protein 230 (TRIP230) by Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Nuclear Translocator (ARNT) is Essential for the Transcriptional Response to both Dioxin and Hypoxia. J. Biol. Chem. 279:54620-8. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M410456200. PMID: 15485806.

Rivera, S.P., Wang F., Saarikoski, S.T., Taylor, R.T., Chapman, B., Zhang, R., and Hankinson, O. (2007). A Novel Promoter Element Containing Multiple Overlapping Xenobiotic and Hypoxia Response Elements Mediates Induction of Cytochrome P4502S1 by both Dioxin and Hypoxia. J. Biol. Chem. 282:10881-93. PMID: 17277313.

Huerta-Yepez, S., Baay-Guzman, G., Bebenek, I., Hernandez-Pando, R., Vega, M., Chi, L., Riedl, M., Diaz-Sanchez, D., Kleerup, E., Tashkin, D., Gonzalez, F., Bonavida, B., Zeidler, M., Hankinson, O. (2011). Hypoxia Inducible Factor Promotes Murine Allergic Airway Inflammation and is Increased in Asthma and Rhinitis. Allergy. 66:909-18. doi: 10.1111/j.1398-9995.2011.02594. PMID: 21517900. PMC3107385.

Bui, P., Solaimani, P., Wu, X., Hankinson, O. (2012). 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin treatment alters eicosanoid levels in several organs of the mouse in an aryl hydrocarbon receptor-dependent  fashion. Toxicol. Appl. Pharmacol. 259(2):143-51. PMID: 22230337. PMCID: PMC3288243.

Sundberg, C., Hankinson, O. (2019). A CRISPR/Cas9 whole-genome screen identifies genes required for Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor-dependent induction of functional CYP1A1. Toxicol Sci. 170(2):310-319. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfz111.PMID: 31086989.

Huerta-Yepez, S., Tirado-Rodriguez, A., Montecillo-Aguado, MR, Yang, J., Hammock BD and Hankinson, O. (2020). Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor-Dependent inductions of omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid metabolism act inversely on tumor progression. Scientific Reports 10(1):7843. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-64146-6. PMID: 32398692.