Indole-3-carbinol, a plant nutrient and AhR-Ligand precursor, supports oral tolerance against OVA and improves peanut allergy symptoms in mice
In general, dietary antigens are tolerated by the gut associated immune system. Impairment of this so-called oral tolerance is a serious health risk. We have previously shown that activation of the ligand-dependent transcription factor aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) by the environmental pollutant 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) affects both oral tolerance and food allergy. In this study, we determine whether a common plant-derived, dietary AhR-ligand modulates oral tolerance as well. We therefore fed mice with indole-3-carbinole (I3C), an AhR ligand that is abundant in cruciferous plants. We show that several I3C metabolites were detectable in the serum after feeding, including the high-affinity ligand 3,3´-diindolylmethane (DIM). I3C feeding robustly induced the AhR-target gene CYP4501A1 in the intestine; I3C feeding also induced the aldh1 gene, whose product catalyzes the formation of retinoic acid (RA), an inducer of regulatory T cells. We then measured parameters indicating oral tolerance and severity of peanut-induced food allergy. In contrast to the tolerance-breaking effect of TCDD, feeding mice with chow containing 2 g/kg I3C lowered the serum anti-ovalbumin IgG1 response in an experimental oral tolerance protocol. Moreover, I3C feeding attenuated symptoms of peanut allergy. In conclusion, the dietary compound I3C can positively influence a vital immune function of the gut.