The aryl hydrocarbon receptor: regulation of hematopoiesis and involvement in the progression of blood diseases

Blood Cells Mol Dis. 2010 Apr 15;44(4):199-206. doi: 10.1016/j.bcmd.2010.01.005. Epub 2010 Feb 19.


The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) is a basic helix-loop-helix protein that belongs to the superfamily of environment-sensing PAS (Per-ARNT-Sim) proteins. A large number of ligands have been described to bind AhR and promote its nuclear translocation. In the nucleus, the AhR and its dimerization partner the AhR nuclear translocator (ARNT) form a DNA-binding complex that acts as a transcriptional regulator. Animal and human data suggest that, beyond its mediating responses to xenobiotic and/or unknown endogenous ligands, the AhR has a role, although as yet undefined, in the regulation of cell cycle and inflammation. The AhR also appears to regulate the hematopoietic and immune systems during development and adult life in a cell-specific manner. While accidental exposure to xenobiotic AhR ligands has been associated with leukemia in humans, the specific mechanisms of AhR involvement are still not completely understood. However, recent data are consistent with a functional role of the AhR in the maintenance of hematopoietic stem and/or progenitor cells (HSCs/HPCs). Studies highlighting AhR regulation of HSCs/HPCs provide a rational framework to understand their biology, a role of the AhR in hematopoietic diseases, and a means to develop interventions for these diseases.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Active Transport, Cell Nucleus
  • Animals
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Nuclear Translocator / physiology
  • Carcinogens, Environmental / adverse effects
  • Carcinogens, Environmental / pharmacokinetics
  • Cell Cycle / physiology
  • Cell Hypoxia / physiology
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Disease Progression
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Hematologic Diseases / etiology
  • Hematologic Diseases / physiopathology
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / cytology
  • Hematopoietic System / physiology
  • Humans
  • Immune System / physiology
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Ligands
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon / drug effects
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon / physiology*
  • Retinoblastoma Protein / physiology
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Xenobiotics / adverse effects
  • Xenobiotics / pharmacology


  • Carcinogens, Environmental
  • Ligands
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon
  • Retinoblastoma Protein
  • Xenobiotics
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Nuclear Translocator