The aromatic hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) has been defined and characterized according to its ability to mediate biological responses to exogenous ligands, such as the synthetic environmental contaminant 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). The natural ligand(s) for AhR is unknown, and we know relatively little about AhR function in the absence of TCDD. Here, we have exploited the availability of AhR-defective (AhR-D) mouse hepatoma (Hepa 1c1c7) cells to analyze AhR's effects under conditions in which TCDD is not present. Our results reveal that AhR-D cells exhibit a different morphology, decreased albumin synthesis, and a prolonged doubling time compared with wild-type cells. Introduction of AhR cDNA into AhR-D cells by stable transfection alters these characteristics such that the cells resemble wild-type cells. Conversely, introduction of antisense AhR cDNA into wild-type cells changes their phenotype such that they resemble AhR-D cells. Fluorescence microscopy reveals that AhR-D cells do not exhibit an increased rate of death. Flow cytometric and biochemical analyses imply that the slowed growth rate of AhR-D cells reflects prolongation of G1. Our findings reveal a potential link between AhR and the G1 phase of the Hepa 1c1c7 cell cycle. These effects of AhR occur in the absence of TCDD. We speculate that they represent responses to an endogenous AhR ligand in Hepa 1c1c7 cells.