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Nat Commun. 2016 Jun 30;7:12080. doi: 10.1038/ncomms12080.

IL-13 from intraepithelial lymphocytes regulates tissue homeostasis and protects against carcinogenesis in the skin.

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Division of Immunology and Inflammation, Department of Medicine, Imperial College London, London W12 0NN, UK.


The skin is under constant renewal and exposure to environmental challenges. How homeostasis is maintained alongside protective mechanisms against damage is unclear. Among the basal epithelial cells (ECs) is a population of resident intraepithelial lymphocytes (IELs) that provide host-protective immune surveillance. Here we show that IELs cross-communicate with ECs via the production of IL-13. Skin ECs are activated by IEL-derived IL-13, enabling a canonical EC stress response. In the absence of IL-13, or canonical IEL, the skin has decreased ability to repair its barrier and increased susceptibility to cutaneous carcinogenesis. IL-13 controls the rate of EC movement through the epidermis, which might explain the importance of IL-13 for epidermal integrity and its suppressive effect on skin carcinogenesis. These findings show that IL-13 acts as a molecular bridge between IELs and ECs, and reveal a critical host-defensive role for type-2 immunity in regulating EC tissue homeostasis and carcinogenesis.

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