The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), for many years almost exclusively studied by the pharmacology/toxicology field for its role in mediating the toxicity of xenobiotics such as 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD), has more recently attracted the attention of immunologists. The evolutionary conservation of this transcription factor and its widespread expression in the immune system point to important physiological functions that are slowly being unraveled. In particular, the emphasis is now shifting from the role of AhR in the xenobiotic pathway toward its mode of action in response to physiological ligands. In this article, we review the current understanding of the molecular interactions and functions of AhR in the immune system in steady state and in the presence of infection and inflammation, with a focus on barrier organs such as the skin, the gut, and the lung.


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