The T helper 17 (Th17) cell pathway has been linked by genome-wide association studies to multiple autoimmune diseases. Identification of the genetic causes of primary immunodeficiency diseases revealed that Th17 cells are also critical in host immunity to mucocutaneous candida infections and Staphylococcus aureus. Therapeutic interventions with inhibitors of the different components of the pathway such as interleukin-12 (IL-12), IL-23, IL-17A, and IL-17RA have variably beneficial effects in psoriasis, Crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, non-infectious uveitis, and multiple sclerosis. Thus, whereas Th17 cells are protective against Candida albicans and to a lesser degree Staphylococcus aureus, they are pathogenic in many autoimmune diseases. Here, we compare and contrast the effects of human genetic mutations of and therapeutic interventions targeted at Th17 cell molecules. We discuss that although there are similarities when Th17 cell pathway molecules are modulated, each molecule has unique non-Th17 cell features that lead to different functional outcomes.
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