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Science. 2011 Dec 16;334(6062):1561-5. doi: 10.1126/science.1214914. Epub 2011 Oct 27.

Natural aryl hydrocarbon receptor ligands control organogenesis of intestinal lymphoid follicles.

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Institute of Medical Microbiology and Hygiene, University of Freiburg Medical Center, Freiburg, Germany.


Innate lymphoid cells (ILC) expressing the transcription factor RORγt induce the postnatal formation of intestinal lymphoid follicles and regulate intestinal homeostasis. RORγt(+) ILC express the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), a highly conserved, ligand-inducible transcription factor believed to control adaptation of multicellular organisms to environmental challenges. We show that AhR is required for the postnatal expansion of intestinal RORγt(+) ILC and the formation of intestinal lymphoid follicles. AhR activity within RORγt(+) ILC could be induced by dietary ligands such as those contained in vegetables of the family Brassicaceae. AhR-deficient mice were highly susceptible to infection with Citrobacter rodentium, a mouse model for attaching and effacing infections. Our results establish a molecular link between nutrients and the formation of immune system components required to maintain intestinal homeostasis and resistance to infections.

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