Environmental and genetic factors represent key components in the establishment/maintenance of the intestinal microbiota. The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) is emerging as a pleiotropic factor, modulating pathways beyond its established role as a xenobiotic sensor. The AHR is known to regulate immune surveillance within the intestine through retention of intraepithelial lymphocytes, functional redistribution of Th17/Treg balance. Consequently, environmental/genetic manipulation of AHR activity likely influences host-microbe homeostasis. Utilizing C57BL6/J Ahr -/+ and Ahr -/- co-housed littermates followed by 18 days of genotypic segregation, we examined the influence of AHR expression upon intestinal microbe composition/functionality and host physiology. 16S sequencing/quantitative PCR (qPCR) revealed significant changes in phyla abundance, particularly Verrucomicrobia together with segmented filamentous bacteria, and an increase in species diversity in Ahr -/- mice following genotypic segregation. Metagenomics/metabolomics indicate microbial composition is associated with functional shifts in bacterial metabolism. Analysis identified Ahr -/- -dependent increases in ileal gene expression, indicating increased inflammatory tone. Transfer of Ahr -/- microbiota to wild-type germ-free mice recapitulated the increase Verrucomicrobia and inflammatory tone, indicating Ahr -/- -microbial dependence. These data suggest a role for the AHR in influencing the community structure of the intestinal microbiota.
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