Dietary aHR ligands regulate ahrr expression in intestinal immune cells and intestinal microbiota composition

Oliver Schanz, Rieka Chijiiwa, Sevgi Can Cengiz, Yasmin Majlesain, Heike Weighardt, Haruko Takeyama, Irmgard Förster*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


A diet rich in vegetables and fruit is generally considered healthy because of a high content of phytochemicals, vitamins, and fiber. The phytochemical indole-3-carbinol (I3C), a derivative of glucobrassicin, is sold as a dietary supplement promising diverse health benefits. I3C metabolites act as ligands of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), an important sensor for environmental polyaromatic chemicals. Here, we investigated how dietary AhR ligand supplementation influences AhR target gene expression and intestinal microbiota composition. For this, we used AhR repressor (AhRR)-reporter mice as a tool to study AhR activation in the intestine following dietary I3C-supplementation in comparison with AhR ligand-deprived diets, including a high fat diet. AhRR expression in intestinal immune cells was mainly driven by dietary AhR ligands and was independent of microbial metabolites. A lack of dietary AhR ligands caused enhanced susceptibility to dextran sodium sulfate (DSS)-induced colitis and correlated with the expansion of Enterobacteriaceae, whereas Clostridiales, Muribaculaceae, and Rikenellaceae were strongly reduced. I3C supplementation largely reverted this effect. Comparison of I3C-induced changes in microbiota composition using wild-type (WT), AhRR-deficient, and AhR-deficient mice revealed both AhR-dependent and-independent alterations in the microbiome. Overall, our study demonstrates that dietary AhR ligand supplementation has a profound influence on Ahrr expression in intestinal immune cells as well as microbiota composition.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3189
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2020 May 1


  • Aryl hydrocarbon receptor
  • Aryl hydrocarbon receptor repressor
  • Colitis
  • Microbiome
  • Mucosal immunity
  • Phytochemicals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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