The role of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor in the female reproductive system

Isabel Hernández-Ochoa, Bethany N. Karman, Jodi A. Flaws

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


In recent years, many studies have emphasized how changes in aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR)-mediated gene expression result in biological effects, raising interest in this receptor as a regulator of normal biological function. This review focuses on what is known about the role of the AHR in the female reproductive system, which includes the ovaries, Fallopian tubes or oviduct, uterus and vagina. This review also focuses on the role of the AHR in reproductive outcomes such as cyclicity, senescence, and fertility. Specifically, studies using potent AHR ligands, as well as transgenic mice lacking the AHR-signaling pathway are discussed from a viewpoint of understanding the endogenous role of this ligand-activated transcription factor in the female reproductive lifespan. Based on findings highlighted in this paper, it is proposed that the AHR has a role in physiological functions including ovarian function, establishment of an optimum environment for fertilization, nourishing the embryo and maintaining pregnancy, as well as in regulating reproductive lifespan and fertility. The mechanisms by which the AHR regulates female reproduction are poorly understood, but it is anticipated that new models and the ability to generate specific gene deletions will provide powerful experimental tools for better understanding how alterations in AHR pathways result in functional changes in the female reproductive system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)547-559
Number of pages13
JournalBiochemical Pharmacology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 2009


  • Aryl hydrocarbon receptor
  • Female reproduction
  • Ovary
  • Oviduct
  • Uterus
  • Vagina

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Pharmacology


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