Activation of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor increases pulmonary neutrophilia and diminishes host resistance to influenza A virus

Sabine Teske, Andrea A. Bohn, Jean F. Regal, Joshua J. Neumiller, B. Paige Lawrence

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82 Scopus citations


Unlike their role in bacterial infection, less is known about the role of neutrophils during pulmonary viral infection. Exposure to pollutant 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD, dioxin) results in excess neutrophils in the lungs of mice infected with influenza A virus. TCDD is the most potent agonist for the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), and exposure to AhR ligands has been correlated with exacerbated inflammatory lung diseases. However, knowledge of the effects of AhR agonists on neutrophils is limited. Likewise, the factors regulating neutrophil responses during respiratory viral infections are not well characterized. To address these knowledge gaps, we determined the in vivo levels of KC, MIP-1α, MIP-2, LIX, IL-6, and C5a in infected mouse lungs. Our data show that these neutrophil chemoattractants are generally produced transiently in the lung within 12-24 h of infection. We also report that expression of CD11a, CD11b, CD49d, CD31, and CD38 is increased on pulmonary neutrophils in response to influenza virus. Using AhR-deficient mice, we demonstrate that excess neutrophilia in the lung is mediated by activation of the AhR and that this enhanced neutrophilia correlates directly with decreased survival in TCDD-exposed mice. Although AhR activation results in more neutrophils in the lungs, we show that this is not mediated by deregulation in levels of common neutrophil chemoattractants, expression of adhesion molecules on pulmonary neutrophils, or delayed death of neutrophils. Likewise, exposure to TCDD did not enhance pulmonary neutrophil function. This study provides an important first step in elucidating the mechanisms by which AhR agonists exacerbate pulmonary inflammatory responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L111-L124
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number1 33-1
StatePublished - Jul 2005


  • Adhesion molecules
  • Aryl hydrocarbon receptor-knockout mice
  • Chemokines
  • Dioxin
  • Pulmonary inflammation


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