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Immunol Cell Biol. 2013 Mar;91(3):215-24. doi: 10.1038/icb.2013.3. Epub 2013 Jan 29.

Innate lymphoid cells: from border protection to the initiation of inflammatory diseases.

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IMMH, Institute of Medical Microbiology and Hygiene, University of Freiburg Medical Centre, Freiburg, Germany.


Innate lymphoid cells (ILC) are a recently discovered group of innate lymphocytes found at mucosal surfaces. The transcriptional and effector programs of ILC strikingly resemble those of the various T-helper (Th) cell fates (that is, Th1, Th2, Th9, Th17, Th22). ILC are involved in protecting the mucosal borders by producing tissue protective factors. More recently, evidence has been provided that inappropriately activated ILC can be drivers of various inflammatory disorders. Here, we will highlight recent developments in our understanding of the transcriptional and developmental programs controlling ILC specification and fate decisions. We will also review the roles assigned to ILC in protecting barriers and in promoting inflammatory diseases. Finally, we will outline how the power of ILC may be harnessed for clinical application, and how interference with ILC function may be used as a new strategy to treat inflammatory diseases.

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