Published online Dec 9, 2013. doi: 10.5497/wjp.v2.i4.107
Revised: August 9, 2013
Accepted: August 16, 2013
Published online: December 9, 2013
The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) was discovered more than three decades ago, and initially was characterized as a transcription factor with a role in xenobiotic metabolism. However, based on subsequent observations that AhR remains active under physiological conditions, exhibits constitutive expression during development, and has a high degree of conservation among species, it was hypothesized that AhR is responsible for functions in addition to its role in detoxification. Correspondingly, recent studies have elucidated novel physiological roles for this ligand-dependent transcription factor that link it to several pathways associated with disease development. In this review, studies are presented that support a role for AhR in cell proliferation, apoptosis, and immune homeostasis, thereby highlighting the therapeutic potential of this receptor for cancer and immune disorders.
Core tip: The goal of the present review was to discuss the role of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) in cell proliferation and immune responses, and to highlight the potential for AhR to serve as a therapeutic target for cancer and immune diseases.