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Aryl hydrocarbon receptor activation affects the dendritic cell phenotype and function during allergic sensitization

Schulz, VJ;van Roest, M;Bol-Schoenmakers, M;van Duursen, MB;van den Berg, M;Pieters, RH;Smit, JJ;

Aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) activation by 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) suppresses peanut sensitization by affecting T cell subsets. However, effects of AhR activation on dendritic cells (DC) in an allergic setting were not investigated yet. Therefore, we analysed the effects of AhR activation on DC phenotype in vivo, as well as their ex vivo potency to stimulate allergen-specific splenic T cells and to induce CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ regulatory (T(reg)) cells. C3H/HeOuJ mice were treated with TCDD by gavage and subsequently sensitized to peanut extract (PE). After eight days, mice were sacrificed and DC in spleen and mesenteric lymph nodes (MLN) were characterized or cocultured with PE-specific CD4+ T cells. AhR activation almost doubled the absolute number of CD11c+CD103+ DC, while not affecting CD11b+ DC, the absolute number of DC, the expression of the activation makers MHCII, CD86, CD80, CD40, CD54 and CD8 on CD11c+ and the activation status of CD11c+CD103+ DC in the spleen. In the MLN, TCDD decreased the absolute number of DC and CD103+ DC, while not affecting CD11b+ DC and the expression of activation markers on DC. PE-pulsed splenic DC from TCDD-treated mice suppressed IL-5, IL-13 and IFN- production by PE-specific T cells, but did not induce CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ T(reg) cells. This suppression of cytokine production was not mediated by the TCDD-induced increase in CD103+ DC in the spleen. Combined, these results indicate that AhR activation suppresses the initiation of food allergic responses by affecting DC and their interaction with effector T cells.