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Th17 cells contribute to host defense on mucosal surfaces but also provoke autoimmune diseases when directed against self-antigens. Identifying therapeutic targets that regulate Th17 cell differentiation and/or cytokine production has considerable value. Here, we study the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR)-dependent transcriptome in human CD4 T cells treated with Th17-inducing cytokines. We show that the AhR reciprocally regulates IL-17 and IL-22 production in human CD4 T cells. Global gene expression analysis revealed that AhR ligation decreased IL21 expression, correlating with delayed upregulation of RORC during culture with Th17-inducing cytokines. Several of the AhR-dependent genes have known roles in cellular assembly, organization, development, growth and proliferation. We further show that expression of GPR15, GPR55 and GPR68 positively correlates with IL-22 production in the presence of the AhR agonist FICZ. Activation of GPR68 with the lorazepam derivative ogerin resulted in suppression of IL-22 and IL-10 secretion by T cells, with no effect on IL-17. Under neutral Th0 conditions, ogerin and the Gq/11 receptor inhibitor YM254890 blunted IL-22 induction by FICZ. These data reveal the AhR-dependent transcriptome in human CD4 T cells and suggest the mechanism through which the AhR regulates T cell function may be partially dependent on Gq-coupled receptors including GPR68.

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McAleer JP, Fan J, Roar B, Primerano DA, Denvir J. Cytokine Regulation in Human CD4 T Cells by the Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor and Gq-Coupled Receptors. Scientific Reports. 2018;8(1). doi:10.1038/s41598-018-29262-4