Indirubin and indigo, which are thought to be natural ligands for aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), showed marked AhR ligand activities in a reporter gene assay using recombinant yeast. Their activities were comparable with or more potent than that of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin. When indirubin and indigo were administered to mice, ethoxyresorufin-O-dealkylase and methoxyresorufin-O-dealkylase activities in the liver were increased, but subsequently decreased within 2 days. Indirubin was more potent than indigo. Levels of cytochrome P450 1A1/2 proteins and mRNAs in the liver of mice dosed with indirubin were also enhanced. These enhancing effects of indirubin and indigo were not observed in AhR knock-out mice. Ethoxyresorufin-O-dealkylase and methoxyresorufin-O-dealkylase activities in rat hepatocytes and HepG2 cells were enhanced by the addition of indirubin or indigo, but less potently than by 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin. Indigocarmine, a sulfate derivative of indigo, which is used as food additive, did not show these inducing effects on drug-metabolizing enzymes. Our results suggest that indirubin and indigo act as inducers for cytochrome P450 1A1/2 mediated by AhR in mammals in vivo.