T helper 17 cells: discovery, function, and physiological trigger

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2010 May;67(9):1407-21. doi: 10.1007/s00018-009-0248-3. Epub 2010 Jan 7.


In the few years since their discovery, T helper 17 cells (T(H)17) have been shown to play an important role in host defense against infections, and in tissue inflammation during autoimmunity. T(H)17 cells produce IL-17, IL-21, IL-10, and IL-22 cytokines, and thus have broad effects on a variety of tissues. Notably, the requirement for the immunosuppressive cytokine TGF-beta along with the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-6 for T(H)17 differentiation supports the intimate relationship between the T(H)17 subset and FOXP3(+) regulatory T cells. Here, we discuss current knowledge on effector functions and differentiation of the T(H)17 lineage. Furthermore, we now know of a physiological stimulus for T(H)17 differentiation: innate immune recognition of cells undergoing apoptosis as a direct result of infection induces unique development of this subset. As our knowledge of T(H)17 and T regulatory cells grows, we are building on a new framework for the understanding of effector T cell differentiation and the biology of CD4(+) T cell adaptive immune responses.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmunity / immunology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Interleukin-10 / immunology
  • Interleukin-17 / immunology*
  • Interleukins / immunology
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor / immunology
  • Signal Transduction / immunology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / cytology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology


  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-17
  • Interleukins
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor
  • Interleukin-10
  • interleukin-21
  • interleukin-22