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Aryl hydrocarbon receptor is required for optimal B-cell proliferation

Villa, M;Gialitakis, M;Tolaini, M;Ahlfors, H;Henderson, CJ;Wolf, CR;Brink, R;Stockinger, B;

The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), a transcription factor known for mediating xenobiotic toxicity, is expressed in B cells, which are known targets for environmental pollutants. However, it is unclear what the physiological functions of AhR in B cells are. We show here that expression of Ahr in B cells is up-regulated upon B-cell receptor (BCR) engagement and IL-4 treatment. Addition of a natural ligand of AhR, FICZ, induces AhR translocation to the nucleus and transcription of the AhR target gene Cyp1a1, showing that the AhR pathway is functional in B cells. AhR-deficient (Ahr(-/-)) B cells proliferate less than AhR-sufficient (Ahr(+/+)) cells following in vitro BCR stimulation and in vivo adoptive transfer models confirmed that Ahr(-/-) B cells are outcompeted by Ahr(+/+) cells. Transcriptome comparison of AhR-deficient and AhR-sufficient B cells identified cyclin O (Ccno), a direct target of AhR, as a top candidate affected by AhR deficiency.