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Mucosal Immunol. 2015 Nov;8(6):1226-36. doi: 10.1038/mi.2015.13. Epub 2015 Mar 4.

Epithelial-derived IL-18 regulates Th17 cell differentiation and Foxp3⁺ Treg cell function in the intestine.

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Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.
Translational Gastroenterology Unit, Experimental Medicine Division, Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, UK.


Elevated levels of interleukin-18 (IL-18) are found in many chronic inflammatory disorders, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and polymorphisms in the IL18R1-IL18RAP locus are associated with IBD susceptibility. IL-18 is an IL-1 family cytokine that has been proposed to promote barrier function in the intestine, but the effects of IL-18 on intestinal CD4(+) T cells are poorly understood. Here we demonstrate that IL-18R1 expression is enhanced on both effector and regulatory CD4(+) T cells in the intestinal lamina propria, with T helper type 17 (Th17) cells exhibiting particularly high levels. We further show that, during steady state, intestinal epithelial cells constitutively secrete IL-18 that acts directly on IL-18R1-expressing CD4(+) T cells to limit colonic Th17 cell differentiation, in part by antagonizing IL-1R1 signaling. In addition, although IL-18R1 is not required for colonic Foxp3(+) regulatory T (Treg) cell differentiation, we found that IL-18R1 signaling was critical for Foxp3(+) Treg cell-mediated control of intestinal inflammation, where it promoted the expression of key Treg effector molecules. Thus IL-18 is a key epithelial-derived cytokine that differentially regulates distinct subsets of intestinal CD4(+) T cells during both homeostatic and inflammatory conditions, a finding with potential implications for treatment of chronic inflammatory disorders.

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