The aryl hydrocarbon receptor: a perspective on potential roles in the immune system

Immunology. 2009 Jul;127(3):299-311. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2567.2009.03054.x.


The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) is a protein best known for its role in mediating toxicity. Over 30 years of research has uncovered additional roles for the AHR in xenobiotic metabolism and normal vascular development. Activation of the AHR has long been known to cause immunotoxicity, including thymic involution. Recent data suggesting a role for the AHR in regulatory T-cell (Treg) and T-helper 17 (Th17) cell development have only added to the excitement about this biology. In this review, we will attempt to illustrate what is currently known about AHR biology in the hope that data from fields as diverse as evolutionary biology and pharmacology will help elucidate the mechanism by which AHR modifies immune responses. We also will discuss the complexities of AHR pharmacology and genetics that may influence future studies of AHR in the immune system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Mutant Strains
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon / genetics
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon / immunology*
  • Signal Transduction / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology


  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon