The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) is a ligand-activated transcript factor that plays an important role in regulating immunity and cell differentiation. However, its role in cell-autonomous antiviral resistance has not been fully elucidated. Here, we show that interruption of AHR signaling in human cells by a chemical antagonist or genetic targeting led to significant reductions in the replication of herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and cytomegalovirus (CMV), revealing an unexpected proviral function of AHR. Interestingly, the enhanced viral control in the absence of AHR is independent of type I interferon (IFN) signaling. Together, these results reveal a previously unknown function of AHR in promoting viral replication in vitro and suggest a potential intervention point for treating viral disease.
Importance: This study describes how a virus might utilize host aryl hydrocarbon receptor signaling to promote its replication, even in the presence of type I interferons.