Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor and Its Diverse Ligands and Functions: An Exposome Receptor

Annu Rev Pharmacol Toxicol. 2022 Jan 6;62:383-404. doi: 10.1146/annurev-pharmtox-052220-115707. Epub 2021 Sep 9.


The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) is a transcriptional factor that regulates multiple functions following its activation by a variety of ligands, including xenobiotics, natural products, microbiome metabolites, and endogenous molecules. Because of this diversity, the AhR constitutes an exposome receptor. One of its main functions is to regulate several lines of defense against chemical insults and bacterial infections. Indeed, in addition to its well-established detoxication function, it has several functions at physiological barriers, and it plays a critical role in immunomodulation. The AhR is also involved in the development of several organs and their homeostatic maintenance. Its activity depends on the type of ligand and on the time frame of the receptor activation, which can be either sustained or transient, leading in some cases to opposite modes of regulations as illustrated in the regulation of different cancer pathways. The development of selective modulators and their pharmacological characterization are important areas of research.

Keywords: cancer; development; exposome; homeostasis; metabolism; modulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Exposome*
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon* / metabolism
  • Xenobiotics / metabolism


  • Ligands
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon
  • Xenobiotics