Aryl hydrocarbon receptor signaling modifies Toll-like receptor-regulated responses in human dendritic cells

Sarah Kado, W. L.William Chang, Aimy Nguyen Chi, Monika Wolny, David M. Shepherd, Christoph F.A. Vogel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Currently, it is not well understood how ligands of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) modify inflammatory responses triggered by Toll-like receptor (TLR) agonists in human dendritic cells (DCs). Here, we show that AhR ligands 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), the tryptophan derivatives 6-formylindolo[3,2-b] carbazole (FICZ), kynurenine (kyn), and the natural dietary compound indole-3-carbinol (I3C) differentially modify cytokine expression in human monocyte-derived DCs (MoDCs). The results show that TLR-activated MoDCs express higher levels of AhR and are more sensitive toward the effects of AhR ligands. Depending on the cytokine, treatment with AhR ligands led to a synergistic or antagonistic effect of the TLR-triggered response in MoDCs. Thus, activation of AhR increased the expression of interleukin (IL)-1β, but decreased the expression of IL-12A in TLR-activated MoDCs. Furthermore, TCDD and FICZ may have opposite effects on the expression of cytochrome P4501A1 (CYP1A1) in TLR8-activated MoDCs indicating that the effect of the specific AhR ligand may depend on the presence of the specific TLR agonist. Gene silencing showed that synergistic effects of AhR ligands on TLR-induced expression of IL-1β require a functional AhR and the expression of NF-κB RelB. On the other hand, repression of IL-12A by TCDD and FICZ involved the induction of the caudal type homeobox 2 (CDX2) transcription factor. Additionally, the levels of DC surface markers were decreased in MoDCs by TCDD, FICZ and I3C, but not by kyn. Overall, these data demonstrate that AhR modulates TLR-induced expression of cytokines and DC-specific surface markers in MoDCs involving NFκB RelB and the immune regulatory factor CDX2.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2209-2221
Number of pages13
JournalArchives of Toxicology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2017


  • AhR
  • CDX2
  • Cytokines
  • Dendritic cells
  • NF-κB
  • TLR


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