The emerging role of aryl hydrocarbon receptor in the activation and differentiation of Th17 cells

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2016 Jan;73(1):95-117. doi: 10.1007/s00018-015-2056-2. Epub 2015 Oct 28.


The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) is a cytoplasmic transcription factor, which plays an essential role in the xenobiotic metabolism in a wide variety of cells. The AHR gene is evolutionarily conserved and it has a central role not only in the differentiation and maturation of many tissues, but also in the toxicological metabolism of the cell by the activation of metabolizing enzymes. Several lines of evidence support that both AHR agonists and antagonists have profound immunological effects; and recently, the AHR has been implicated in antibacterial host defense. According to recent studies, the AHR is essential for the differentiation and activation of T helper 17 (Th17) cells. It is well known that Th17 cells have a central role in the development of inflammation, which is crucial in the defense against pathogens. In addition, Th17 cells play a major role in the pathogenesis of several autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Therefore, the AHR may provide connection between the environmental chemicals, the immune regulation, and autoimmunity. In the present review, we summarize the role of the AHR in the Th17 cell functions.

Keywords: Aryl hydrocarbon receptor; Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; RAR-related orphan nuclear receptor gamma t; Th17 cell.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Drug Discovery
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Lymphocyte Activation*
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon / analysis
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon / immunology*
  • Th17 Cells / cytology
  • Th17 Cells / immunology*


  • Cytokines
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon