The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) is a ligand-dependent transcription factor that regulates the transcription of certain key enzymes involved in the metabolism of xenobiotic substances including some drugs. The AhR can be activated by a wide range of classes of compounds (e.g. polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, benzimidazoles and flavonoids), and interacts with a number of other proteins, including nuclear hormone receptors such as the oestrogen and androgen receptors. Activation of the AhR antagonises the oestrogen receptor and can lead to modulation of its transcriptional activity; thus, activating the AhR may serve as a target for breast cancer therapy. Disruption of normal signalling by drug interactions with the AhR or downstream components of this pathway could result in adverse effects, such as the bioactivation of procarcinogens or the disruption of normal homeostasis. The cytochrome P450s CYP1A1, -1B1, -1A2 and -2S1 are regulated by the AhR, and they are all involved in the metabolism of endogenous substrates as well as xenobiotics. Polymorphisms in the AhR, or polymorphisms in enzymes regulated by the AhR, may cause variations in response to certain drugs in different individuals; this needs to be taken into consideration when administering drugs that interact with this pathway.
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