Signal transduction pathways and transcriptional regulation in the control of Th17 differentiation

Semin Immunol. 2007 Dec;19(6):400-8. doi: 10.1016/j.smim.2007.10.015. Epub 2007 Dec 31.


The discovery of a new lineage of helper T cells that selectively produces interleukin (IL)-17 has provided exciting new insights into immunoregulation, host defense and the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases. Additionally, the discovery of this T cell subset has offered a fresh look at how the complexity of selective regulation of cytokine gene expression might relate to lineage commitment, terminal differentiation and immunologic memory. Information continues to accumulate on factors that regulate Th17 differentiation at a rapid pace and a few lessons have emerged. Like other lineages, Th17 cells preferentially express a transcription factor, retinoic acid-related orphan receptor (ROR)gammat, whose expression seems to be necessary for IL-17 production. In addition, signals from the T-cell receptor are a critical aspect of controlling IL-17 production and the transcription factor nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFATs) appears to be another important regulator. IL-6, IL-21 and IL-23 are all cytokines that activate the transcription factor STAT3, which has been established to be necessary for multiple aspects of the biology of Th17 cells. Similarly, TGFbeta-1 is important for the differentiation of murine Th17 cells and inducible regulatory T cells (iTregs), but how it exerts its effect on IL-17 gene transcription is unknown and there are data indicating TGFbeta-1 is not required for human Th17 differentiation. The extent to which Th17 cells represent terminally differentiated cells or whether they retain plasticity and can develop into another lineage such as IFNgamma secreting Th1 cells is also unclear. Precisely how cytokines produced by this lineage are selectively expressed and selectively extinguished through epigenetic modifications is an area of great importance, but considerable uncertainty.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Interferon Regulatory Factors / metabolism
  • Interleukin-17 / immunology
  • Interleukin-17 / metabolism*
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 1, Group F, Member 3
  • Proto-Oncogene Protein c-ets-1 / metabolism
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism
  • Receptors, Retinoic Acid / metabolism
  • Receptors, Thyroid Hormone / metabolism
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / cytology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer / metabolism*
  • Transcription, Genetic*
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism
  • Tretinoin / metabolism


  • Cytokines
  • Interferon Regulatory Factors
  • Interleukin-17
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 1, Group F, Member 3
  • Proto-Oncogene Protein c-ets-1
  • RORC protein, human
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Receptors, Retinoic Acid
  • Receptors, Thyroid Hormone
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Tretinoin