Group 3 innate lymphoid cells inhibit T-cell-mediated intestinal inflammation through aryl hydrocarbon receptor signaling and regulation of microflora

Immunity. 2013 Aug 22;39(2):386-99. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2013.08.002. Epub 2013 Aug 15.


Aryl hydrocarbon receptor (Ahr) is crucial for the maintenance and function of group 3 innate lymphoid cells (ILCs), which are important in gut immunity. Because Ahr promotes T helper 17 (Th17) cell differentiation in vitro, it is reasonable to expect that Ahr would enhance Th17 cells in vivo. Instead, we show that Ahr deficiency caused increased intestinal Th17 cells, raising the possibility that group 3 ILCs could negatively regulate Th17 cells. Reduced innate interleukin-22 (IL-22) in Ahr-deficient mice allowed expansion of commensal segmented filamentous bacteria (SFB), known to promote Th17 cells. Compared to Rorc(+/+)Ahr(-/-) mice, Rorc(gfp/+)Ahr(-/-) mice had further reduced group 3 ILCs and were prone to spontaneous colitis with increased SFB and Th17 cells. Innate expression of Ahr played a protective role in T-cell-mediated experimental colitis by suppressing pathogenic Th17 cells. Our data reveal an intricate balance between ILCs and Th17 cells regulated by Ahr and commensal flora.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology
  • Colitis / immunology*
  • Interleukin-17 / metabolism
  • Interleukins / biosynthesis
  • Interleukins / metabolism*
  • Intestines / immunology
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 1, Group F, Member 3 / metabolism
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon / deficiency
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon / genetics
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Th17 Cells / immunology*
  • Th17 Cells / metabolism


  • Interleukin-17
  • Interleukins
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 1, Group F, Member 3
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon
  • interleukin-22