Appropriate regulation of IL-17 production in the host can mean the difference between effective control of pathogens and uncontrolled inflammation that causes tissue damage. Investigation of conventional CD4+ T cells (Th17 cells) has yielded invaluable insights into IL-17 function and its regulation. More recently, we and others reported production of IL-17 from innate αβ+ T cell populations, which was shown to occur primarily via IL-23R signaling through the transcription factor STAT-3. In our current study, we identify promyelocytic leukemia zinc finger (PLZF)-expressing iNKT, CD4-/CD8+, and CD4-/CD8- (DN) αβ+T cells, which produce IL-17 in response to TCR and IL-1 receptor ligation independently of STAT-3 signaling. Notably, this noncanonical pathway of IL-17 production may be important in mucosal defense and is by itself sufficient to control pathogenic Staphylococcus aureus infection at the ocular surface.
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