Intestinal Th17 cells are induced and accumulate in response to colonization with a subgroup of intestinal microbes such as segmented filamentous bacteria (SFB) and certain extracellular pathogens. Here, we show that adhesion of microbes to intestinal epithelial cells (ECs) is a critical cue for Th17 induction. Upon monocolonization of germ-free mice or rats with SFB indigenous to mice (M-SFB) or rats (R-SFB), M-SFB and R-SFB showed host-specific adhesion to small intestinal ECs, accompanied by host-specific induction of Th17 cells. Citrobacter rodentium and Escherichia coli O157 triggered similar Th17 responses, whereas adhesion-defective mutants of these microbes failed to do so. Moreover, a mixture of 20 bacterial strains, which were selected and isolated from fecal samples of a patient with ulcerative colitis on the basis of their ability to cause a robust induction of Th17 cells in the mouse colon, also exhibited EC-adhesive characteristics.
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