The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) is an important component of the host-microbiota communication network. Comparisons of wild-type and Ahr-null mice as well as from exposure studies with potent AHR ligands (e.g., 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin) have provided compelling evidence that the AHR may be a master regulator of the host-microbiota interaction thus helping to shape the immune system and impact host metabolism. Metabolomics and sequenced-based microbial community profiling, two recent technological advances, have helped to solidify this host-microbiota signaling concept and identified not only how specific ligands generated by the host and by the microbiota can activate the AHR, but also how activation/disruption of the AHR can influence and shape the microbiota. We are just beginning to understand how the temporal nature and tissue- and microbiota-specific generation of AHR ligands contribute to many AHR-dependent processes. In this review, we focus on several recent advances where metabolomics and characterization of the microbiota structure and function have generated new perspectives by which to evaluate AHR activity.
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