The AH receptor (AHR) mediates toxicity of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) as well as induction of three cytochrome P450 enzymes and certain Phase II enzymes. In laboratory animals, genetic variations in the AHR lead to substantial differences in sensitivity to biochemical and toxic effects of TCDD and related compounds. Relatively few polymorphisms have been discovered in the human AHR gene; these occur predominantly in exon 10, a region that encodes a major portion of the transactivation domain of the receptor that is responsible for regulating expression of other genes. In human populations there is a wide range of variation in responses regulated by the AHR for example, induction of CYP1A1. Some variation in human responsiveness likely is due to genetically based variations in AHR structure. Thus far, however, only one pair of polymorphisms, those at codons 517 and 570, has been shown to have a clear cut and strong effect on the phenotype of an AHR-mediated response. The search continues for polymorphisms that alter AHR function because this receptor is a central factor in determining responses to important environmental contaminants and also plays a physiologic role in early development in mammals.