There is an under-recognized role of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) in co-ordinating the entry and pathophysiology of the severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) that underpins the COVID-19 pandemic. The rise in pro-inflammatory cytokines during the ‘cytokine storm’ induce indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO), leading to an increase in kynurenine that activates the AhR, thereby heightening the initial pro-inflammatory cytokine phase and suppressing the endogenous anti-viral response. Such AhR-driven changes underpin the heightened severity and fatality associated with pre-existent high-risk medical conditions, such as type II diabetes, as well as to how racial discrimination stress contributes to the raised severity/fatality in people from the Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities. The AhR is pivotal in modulating mitochondrial metabolism and co-ordinating specialized, pro-resolving mediators (SPMs), the melatonergic pathways, acetyl-coenzyme A, and the cyclooxygenase (COX) 2-prostaglandin (PG) E2 pathway that underpin ‘exhaustion’ in the endogenous anti-viral cells, paralleling similar metabolic suppression in cytolytic immune cells that is evident across all cancers. The pro-inflammatory cytokine induced gut permeability/dysbiosis and suppression of pineal melatonin are aspects of the wider pathophysiological underpinnings regulated by the AhR. This has a number of prophylactic and treatment implications for SARS-CoV-2 infection and cancers and future research directions that better investigate the biological underpinnings of social processes and how these may drive health disparities.
- Aryl hydrocarbon receptor
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)