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Mucosal Immunol. 2014 Jul;7(4):842-56. doi: 10.1038/mi.2013.101. Epub 2013 Nov 27.

Interleukin-23 is sufficient to induce rapid de novo gut tumorigenesis, independent of carcinogens, through activation of innate lymphoid cells.

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Merck Research Laboratories, Palo Alto, California, USA.


Chronic inflammation has been associated with increased risk for developing gastrointestinal cancer. Interleukin-23 (IL-23) receptor signaling has been correlated with inflammatory bowel disease pathogenesis, as well as promotion of tumor growth. However, little is known about the relative potential for IL-23-directed causality in gut tumorigenesis. We report that IL-23 transgene expression was sufficient to induce rapid (3-4 weeks) de novo development of intestinal adenomas with 100% incidence. Initiation of tumorigenesis was independent of exogenous carcinogens, Helicobacter colonization, or pre-existing tumor-suppressor gene mutations. Tumorigenesis was mediated by Thy1(+)IL-23R(+) innate lymphoid cells (ILC3), in part, through IL-17 responses as tumor development was inhibited in RAG(-/-) × IL-17(-/-) double knockout mice. Remarkably, IL-23 initiation of tumorigenesis by resident ILCs consistently occurred before recruitment of conspicuous inflammatory infiltrates. Our results reveal an explicit role for IL-23-mediated initiation of gut tumorigenesis and implicate a key role for IL-23R(+) ILC3 in the absence of overt cellular infiltrate recruitment.

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