Commensal and Pathogenic Bacteria Indirectly Induce IL-22 but Not IFNγ Production From Human Colonic ILC3s via Multiple Mechanisms

Front Immunol. 2019 Mar 29;10:649. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2019.00649. eCollection 2019.


Innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) are a diverse family of cells that play critical roles in mucosal immunity. One subset of the ILC family, Group 3 ILCs (ILC3s), has been shown to aid in gut homeostasis through the production of IL-22. IL-22 promotes gut homeostasis through its functional effect on the epithelial barrier. When gut epithelial barrier integrity is compromised, such as in Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), microbes from the gut lumen translocate into the lamina propria, inducing a multitude of potentially pathogenic immune responses. In murine models of bacterial infection, there is evidence that bacteria can induce pro-inflammatory IFNγ production in ILC3s. However, the impact of diverse translocating bacteria, particularly commensal bacteria, in dictating IFNγ versus IL-22 production by human gut ILC3s remains unclear. Here, we utilized an in vitro human lamina propria mononuclear cell (LPMC) model to evaluate ILC3 cytokine production in response to a panel of enteric Gram-positive and Gram-negative commensal and pathogenic bacteria and determined potential mechanisms by which these cytokine responses were induced. The percentages of IL-22-producing ILC3s, but not IFNγ-producing ILC3s, were significantly increased after LPMC exposure to both Gram-positive and Gram-negative commensal or pathogenic bacterial stimuli. Stimulation of IL-22 production from ILC3s was not through direct recognition of bacterial antigen by ILC3s, but rather required the help of accessory cells within the LPMC population. CD11c+ myeloid dendritic cells generated IL-23 and IL-1β in response to enteric bacteria and contributed to ILC3 production of IL-22. Furthermore, ligation of the natural cytotoxicity receptor NKp44 on ILC3s in response to bacteria stimulation also significantly increased the percentage of IL-22-producing ILC3s. Overall, these data demonstrate that human gut microbiota, including commensal bacteria, indirectly modulate colonic ILC3 function to induce IL-22, but additional signals are likely required to induce IFNγ production by colonic ILC3s in the setting of inflammation and microbial translocation.

Keywords: IL-1β; IL-23; NKp44; colonic mucosa; commensal bacteria; human; innate lymphoid cells; myeloid dendritic cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Translocation / immunology
  • Colon* / immunology
  • Colon* / microbiology
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / immunology*
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / immunology*
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Interferon-gamma / immunology*
  • Interleukin-1beta / immunology
  • Interleukins / immunology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa* / immunology
  • Intestinal Mucosa* / microbiology
  • Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • IFNG protein, human
  • IL1B protein, human
  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Interleukins
  • Interferon-gamma
  • interleukin-22