Regulating the regulator: factors that control levels and activity of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor

Biochem Pharmacol. 2006 Jul 28;72(3):267-79. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2006.01.007. Epub 2006 Feb 20.


The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) participates in a wide range of critical cellular events in response to endogenous signals or xenobiotic chemicals. Hence, it is important that AHR levels and activity themselves be well controlled in target tissues. The AHR is essentially ubiquitous in its distribution in mammalian tissues. However, levels of the receptor vary widely across different tissues and among different cell types. AHR levels and activity are modulated by exposure to the receptor's own ligands and are influenced by other xenobiotic chemicals. Many different factors impinge on AHR levels and AHR activity. These factors may alter responsiveness of downstream pathways, thereby affecting normal physiologic functions as well as responses to toxic environmental chemicals such as dioxins. Our commentary appraises the current literature on factors that regulate AHR levels/activity and attempts to identify fruitful strategies towards discovery of key pathways by which AHR levels are modulated in response to endogenous signals and in response to xenobiotic chemicals. An extraordinarily large number of agents alter the level or activity of the AHR. We have not yet entered an age of enlightenment sufficient to achieve true understanding of the interplay of mechanisms that regulate AHR expression in space and in time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Factors / pharmacology
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon / genetics*
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon / physiology


  • Biological Factors
  • Ligands
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon