Aryl hydrocarbon receptor and intestinal immunity

Mucosal Immunol. 2018 Jul;11(4):1024-1038. doi: 10.1038/s41385-018-0019-2. Epub 2018 Apr 7.


Aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) is a member of the basic helix-loop-helix-(bHLH) superfamily of transcription factors, which are associated with cellular responses to environmental stimuli, such as xenobiotics and oxygen levels. Unlike other members of bHLH, AhR is the only bHLH transcription factor that is known to be ligand activated. Early AhR studies focused on understanding the role of AhR in mediating the toxicity and carcinogenesis properties of the prototypic ligand 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). In recent years, however, it has become apparent that, in addition to its toxicological involvement, AhR is highly receptive to a wide array of endogenous and exogenous ligands, and that its activation leads to a myriad of key host physiological functions. In this study, we review the current understanding of the functions of AhR in the mucosal immune system with a focus on its role in intestinal barrier function and intestinal immune cells, as well as in intestinal homeostasis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Mucosal
  • Intestinal Mucosa / physiology*
  • Intestines / immunology*
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / toxicity
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon