Regulation of TH17 Cells and Associated Cytokines in Wound Healing, Tissue Regeneration, and Carcinogenesis

Int J Mol Sci. 2017 May 11;18(5):1033. doi: 10.3390/ijms18051033.


Wound healing is a crucial process which protects our body against permanent damage and invasive infectious agents. Upon tissue damage, inflammation is an early event which is orchestrated by a multitude of innate and adaptive immune cell subsets including TH17 cells. TH17 cells and TH17 cell associated cytokines can impact wound healing positively by clearing pathogens and modulating mucosal surfaces and epithelial cells. Injury of the gut mucosa can cause fast expansion of TH17 cells and their induction from naïve T cells through Interleukin (IL)-6, TGF-β, and IL-1β signaling. TH17 cells produce various cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, IL-17, and IL-22, which can promote cell survival and proliferation and thus tissue regeneration in several organs including the skin, the intestine, and the liver. However, TH17 cells are also potentially pathogenic if not tightly controlled. Failure of these control mechanisms can result in chronic inflammatory conditions, such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), and can ultimately promote carcinogenesis. Therefore, there are several mechanisms which control TH17 cells. One control mechanism is the regulation of TH17 cells via regulatory T cells and IL-10. This mechanism is especially important in the intestine to terminate immune responses and maintain homeostasis. Furthermore, TH17 cells have the potential to convert from a pro-inflammatory phenotype to an anti-inflammatory phenotype by changing their cytokine profile and acquiring IL-10 production, thereby limiting their own pathological potential. Finally, IL-22, a signature cytokine of TH17 cells, can be controlled by an endogenous soluble inhibitory receptor, Interleukin 22 binding protein (IL-22BP). During tissue injury, the production of IL-22 by TH17 cells is upregulated in order to promote tissue regeneration. To limit the regenerative program, which could promote carcinogenesis, IL-22BP is upregulated during the later phase of regeneration in order to terminate the effects of IL-22. This delicate balance secures the beneficial effects of IL-22 and prevents its potential pathogenicity. An important future goal is to understand the precise mechanisms underlying the regulation of TH17 cells during inflammation, wound healing, and carcinogenesis in order to design targeted therapies for a variety of diseases including infections, cancer, and immune mediated inflammatory disease.

Keywords: TH17 cells; carcinogenesis; cytokines; immune regulation; tissue regeneration; wound healing.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity
  • Animals
  • Carcinogenesis / immunology*
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Survival
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / immunology
  • Mice
  • Th17 Cells / immunology*
  • Wound Healing / immunology*


  • Cytokines