T helper 1 (Th1) cell-associated immunity exacerbates ileitis induced by oral Toxoplasma gondii infection. We show here that attenuated ileitis observed in interleukin-22 (IL-22)-deficient mice was associated with reduced production of Th1-cell-promoting IL-18. IL-22 not only augmented the expression of Il18 mRNA and inactive precursor protein (proIL-18) in intestinal epithelial cells after T. gondii or Citrobacter rodentium infection, but also maintained the homeostatic amount of proIL-18 in the ileum. IL-22, however, did not induce the processing to active IL-18, suggesting a two-step regulation of IL-18 in these cells. Although IL-18 exerted pathogenic functions during ileitis triggered by T. gondii, it was required for host defense against C. rodentium. Conversely, IL-18 was required for the expression of IL-22 in innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) upon T. gondii infection. Our results define IL-18 as an IL-22 target gene in epithelial cells and describe a complex mutual regulation of both cytokines during intestinal infection.
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