To determine the function of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator (ARNT), a conditional gene knockout mouse was made using the Cre-loxP system. Exon 6, encoding the conserved basic-helix-loop-helix domain of the protein, was flanked by loxP sites and introduced into the Arnt gene by standard gene disruption techniques using embryonic stem cells. Mice homozygous for the floxed allele were viable and had no readily observable phenotype. The Mx1-Cre transgene, in which Cre is under control of the interferon-gamma promoter, was introduced into the Arnt-floxed mouse line. Treatment with polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid to induce expression of Cre resulted in complete disruption of the Arnt gene and loss of ARNT messenger RNA (mRNA) expression in liver. To determine the role of ARNT in gene control in the intact animal mouse liver, expression of target genes under control of an ARNT dimerization partner, the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR), was monitored. Induction of CYP1A1, CYP1A2, and UGT1*06 mRNAs by the AHR ligand 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin was absent in livers of Arnt-floxed/Mx1-Cre mice treated with polyinosinic-polycytidylic. These data demonstrate that ARNT is required for AHR function in the intact animal. Partial deletion of the Arnt allele was found in kidney, heart, intestine, and lung. Despite more than 80% loss of the ARNT expression in lung, maximal induction of CYP1A1 was found, indicating that the expression level of ARNT is not limiting to AHR signaling. Cobalt chloride induction of the glucose transporter-1 and heme oxygenase-1 mRNAs was also markedly abrogated in mice lacking ARNT expression, suggesting an inhibition of HIF-1alpha activity. These studies establish a critical role for ARNT in AHR and HIF-1alpha signal transduction in the intact mouse.