Interleukin-22 (IL-22) has important functions in host defense at mucosal surfaces as well as in tissue repair. It is unique as a cytokine that is produced by immune cells, including T-helper (Th) cell subsets and innate lymphocytes, but acts only on non-hematopoietic stromal cells, in particular epithelial cells, keratinocytes, and hepatocytes. Although IL-22 is beneficial to the host in many infectious and inflammatory disorders, depending on the target tissue it can be pathogenic due to its inherent pro-inflammatory properties, which are further enhanced when IL-22 is released together with other pro-inflammatory cytokines, in particular IL-17. To avoid pathology, IL-22 and IL-17 production have to be controlled tightly and independently. While common factors such as signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) and retinoid orphan receptor γt (RORγt) drive the expression of both cytokines, other factors, such as c-Maf act specifically on IL-22 and enable the separate expression of either cytokine. Here, we discuss the production of IL-22 from various T-cell populations as well as protective versus pathogenic roles of IL-22. Finally, we focus on recent advances in our understanding of the molecular regulation of IL-22 in T cells.
© 2013 John Wiley & Sons A/S. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.