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Title: The Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Modulates T Follicular Helper Cell Responses to Influenza Virus Infection in Mice.

Authors: Houser, Cassandra L; Lawrence, B Paige

Published In J Immunol, (2022 May 15)

Abstract: T follicular helper (Tfh) cells support Ab responses and are a critical component of adaptive immune responses to respiratory viral infections. Tfh cells are regulated by a network of signaling pathways that are controlled, in part, by transcription factors. The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) is an environment-sensing transcription factor that modulates many aspects of adaptive immunity by binding a range of small molecules. However, the contribution of AHR signaling to Tfh cell differentiation and function is not known. In this article, we report that AHR activation by three different agonists reduced the frequency of Tfh cells during primary infection of C57BL/6 mice with influenza A virus (IAV). Further, using the high-affinity and AHR-specific agonist 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin, we show that AHR activation reduced Tfh cell differentiation and T cell-dependent B cell responses. Using conditional AHR knockout mice, we demonstrated that alterations of Tfh cells and T cell-dependent B cell responses after AHR activation required the AHR in T cells. AHR activation reduced the number of T follicular regulatory (Tfr) cells; however, the ratio of Tfr to Tfh cells was amplified. These alterations to Tfh and Tfr cells during IAV infection corresponded with differences in expression of BCL6 and FOXP3 in CD4+ T cells and required the AHR to have a functional DNA-binding domain. Overall, these findings support that the AHR modulates Tfh cells during viral infection, which has broad-reaching consequences for understanding how environmental factors contribute to variation in immune defenses against infectious pathogens, such as influenza and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus.

PubMed ID: 35444027 Exiting the NIEHS site

MeSH Terms: Animals; Cell Differentiation; Influenza A virus*/immunology; Mice; Mice, Inbred C57BL; Orthomyxoviridae Infections*/immunology; Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon/immunology; T Follicular Helper Cells*/immunology

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