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Effect of aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) ligands on human colonic intraepithelial lymphocytes

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The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) is commonly known for its function in detoxifying xenobiotic compounds. Studies in mice have shown that AhR also plays an important role in the development and maintenance of the intestinal immune system. AhR can be activated by hydrocarbon compounds found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, which are converted to high affinity compounds by the stomach acid. In the intestine, AhR is expressed by intraepithelial lymphocytes in the epithelial layer, where they provide a first line of defence against environmental challenges.

To date, no research has been performed on AhR signalling in human intestinal immune cells. The purpose of this study is to investigate the response of human intraepithelial lymphocytes to known AhR ligands. To address this, we isolate intraepithelial lymphocytes from intestinal biopsies taken from healthy volunteers. These cells are then exposed to several different AhR ligands for subsequent gene expression analyses. The data will be used to develop a model for the role of intraepithelial lymphocytes in intestinal homeostasis and the possible different pathways of AhR signalling.

This project is a collaborative project lead by professor Jerry Wells at the Host-Microbe-Interactomic Group, Wageningen University, Netherlands.

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