Innate lymphoid cells: emerging insights in development, lineage relationships, and function

Annu Rev Immunol. 2012:30:647-75. doi: 10.1146/annurev-immunol-020711-075053. Epub 2012 Jan 6.


Innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) are immune cells that lack a specific antigen receptor yet can produce an array of effector cytokines that in variety match that of T helper cell subsets. ILCs function in lymphoid organogenesis, tissue remodeling, antimicrobial immunity, and inflammation, particularly at barrier surfaces. Their ability to promptly respond to insults inflicted by stress-causing microbes strongly suggests that ILCs are critical in first-line immunological defenses. Here, we review current data on developmental requirements, lineage relationships, and effector functions of two families of ILCs: (a) Rorγt-expressing cells involved in lymphoid tissue formation, mucosal immunity, and inflammation and (b) type 2 ILCs that are important for helminth immunity. We also discuss the potential roles of ILCs in the pathology of immune-mediated inflammatory and infectious diseases including allergy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology
  • Cell Lineage
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Lymphocytes / cytology
  • Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 1, Group F, Member 3 / metabolism


  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 1, Group F, Member 3