Aromatic hydrocarbon receptors in the immune system: Review and hypotheses

Acta Microbiol Immunol Hung. 2019 Sep 1;66(3):273-287. doi: 10.1556/030.66.2019.003. Epub 2019 Feb 26.


Ah-receptors (AhRs) recognize and bind foreign environmental molecules as well as some target hormones of other nuclear receptors. As ligands activate transcription factors, they transmit the information on the presence of these molecules by binding to the DNA, which in turn activate xenobiotic metabolism genes. Cross talk with other nuclear receptors or some non-nuclear receptors also activates or inhibits endocrine processes. Immune cells have AhRs by which they are activated for physiological (immunity) or non-physiological (allergy and autoimmunity) processes. They can be imprinted by hormonal or pseudo-hormonal (environmental) factors, which could provoke pathological alterations for life (by faulty perinatal hormonal imprinting). The variety and amount of human-made new environmental molecules (endocrine disruptors) are enormously growing, so the importance of AhR functions is also expanding.

Keywords: Ah-receptors; allergy; aromatic hydrocarbons; autoimmunity; cross talk; endocrine disruptors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmune Diseases / chemically induced
  • Endocrine Disruptors / metabolism*
  • Endocrine Disruptors / toxicity
  • Environmental Pollutants / metabolism*
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity
  • Hydrocarbons, Aromatic / metabolism*
  • Hydrocarbons, Aromatic / toxicity
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Immune System / drug effects*


  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Hydrocarbons, Aromatic