Innate lymphoid cells in autoimmunity: emerging regulators in rheumatic diseases

Nat Rev Rheumatol. 2017 Mar;13(3):164-173. doi: 10.1038/nrrheum.2016.218. Epub 2017 Feb 2.


Innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) are important in the regulation of barrier homeostasis. These cells do not express T cell receptors but share many functional similarities with T helper cells and cytotoxic CD8+ T lymphocytes. ILCs are divided into three groups, namely group 1 ILCs, group 2 ILCs and group 3 ILCs, based on the transcription factors they depend on for their development and function, and the cytokines they produce. Emerging data indicate that ILCs not only have protective functions but can also have detrimental effects when dysregulated, leading to chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases, including asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, graft-versus-host disease, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and atopic dermatitis. Elucidation of the cytokine pathways involved in various autoimmune diseases - and the identification of ILCs as potent producers of these cytokines - points towards a potential role for these cellular players in the pathophysiology of these diseases. In this Review we discuss the current knowledge of the role of ILCs in the pathogenesis of rheumatic and other autoimmune diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmune Diseases / physiopathology
  • Autoimmunity / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / physiology
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / physiopathology
  • Lymphocytes / physiology*
  • Rheumatic Diseases / immunology
  • Rheumatic Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Spondylarthropathies / physiopathology