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Interrelated Roles for the Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor and Hypoxia Inducible Factor-1α in the Immune Response to Infection

[ Vol. 11 , Issue. 1 ]


Sagie Wagage and Christopher A. Hunter   Pages 43 - 54 ( 12 )


Cells of the immune system utilize multiple mechanisms to respond to environmental signals and recent studies have demonstrated roles for two closely related proteins, the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) and hypoxia inducible factor-1α (HIF1α), in these processes. The AHR is a transcription factor that is activated by diverse ligands found in the diet and environmental pollution as well as by microbial and host-derived products. In contrast, HIF1α is a transcription factor that is active under low oxygen conditions and mediates cellular responses to hypoxia. These evolutionarily conserved proteins have roles in the interrelated processes of metabolism, tumorigenesis, and vascular development. Additionally, the AHR and HIF1α have multiple effects on innate and adaptive immunity. This article provides an overview of the biology of these transcription factors and reviews the effects of AHR and HIF1α signaling on immunity to infection. There are many parallels between these two pathways and their functions highlight the importance of AHR and HIF1α activity particularly at barrier surfaces in coordinating responses to pathogens.


Adaptive immunity, aryl hydrocarbon receptor, hypoxia inducible factor-1á, infection, innate immunity, transcription factor.


Department of Pathobiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.

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