Interleukin 17C (IL-17C) is a member of the IL-17 family that is selectively induced in epithelia by bacterial challenge and inflammatory stimuli. Here we show that IL-17C functioned in a unique autocrine manner, binding to a receptor complex consisting of the receptors IL-17RA and IL-17RE, which was preferentially expressed on tissue epithelial cells. IL-17C stimulated epithelial inflammatory responses, including the expression of proinflammatory cytokines, chemokines and antimicrobial peptides, which were similar to those induced by IL-17A and IL-17F. However, IL-17C was produced by distinct cellular sources, such as epithelial cells, in contrast to IL-17A, which was produced mainly by leukocytes, especially those of the T(H)17 subset of helper T cells. Whereas IL-17C promoted inflammation in an imiquimod-induced skin-inflammation model, it exerted protective functions in dextran sodium sulfate-induced colitis. Thus, IL-17C is an essential autocrine cytokine that regulates innate epithelial immune responses.