Interleukin-22 orchestrates a pathological endoplasmic reticulum stress response transcriptional programme in colonic epithelial cells

Gut. 2020 Mar;69(3):578-590. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2019-318483. Epub 2019 Dec 2.


Objective: The functional role of interleukin-22 (IL22) in chronic inflammation is controversial, and mechanistic insights into how it regulates target tissue are lacking. In this study, we evaluated the functional role of IL22 in chronic colitis and probed mechanisms of IL22-mediated regulation of colonic epithelial cells.

Design: To investigate the functional role of IL22 in chronic colitis and how it regulates colonic epithelial cells, we employed a three-dimentional mini-gut epithelial organoid system, in vivo disease models and transcriptomic datasets in human IBD.

Results: As well as inducing transcriptional modules implicated in antimicrobial responses, IL22 also coordinated an endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress response transcriptional programme in colonic epithelial cells. In the colon of patients with active colonic Crohn's disease (CD), there was enrichment of IL22-responsive transcriptional modules and ER stress response modules. Strikingly, in an IL22-dependent model of chronic colitis, targeting IL22 alleviated colonic epithelial ER stress and attenuated colitis. Pharmacological modulation of the ER stress response similarly impacted the severity of colitis. In patients with colonic CD, antibody blockade of IL12p40, which simultaneously blocks IL12 and IL23, the key upstream regulator of IL22 production, alleviated the colonic epithelial ER stress response.

Conclusions: Our data challenge perceptions of IL22 as a predominantly beneficial cytokine in IBD and provide novel insights into the molecular mechanisms of IL22-mediated pathogenicity in chronic colitis. Targeting IL22-regulated pathways and alleviating colonic epithelial ER stress may represent promising therapeutic strategies in patients with colitis.

Trial registration number: NCT02749630.

Keywords: ER stress; Interleukin 22; inflammatory bowel disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Chronic Disease
  • Colitis / blood
  • Colitis / drug therapy
  • Colitis / genetics*
  • Colitis / pathology
  • Colon / pathology
  • Crohn Disease / pathology
  • Crohn Disease / physiopathology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress / drug effects
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress / genetics*
  • Epithelial Cells / physiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Agents / pharmacology
  • Gastrointestinal Agents / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-17 / pharmacology
  • Interleukin-23 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Interleukins / blood
  • Interleukins / genetics
  • Interleukins / pharmacology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology
  • Mice
  • Organoids
  • Patient Acuity
  • Phenylbutyrates / pharmacology
  • Recombinant Proteins / pharmacology
  • Transcription, Genetic* / drug effects
  • Tunicamycin / pharmacology
  • Unfolded Protein Response
  • Ustekinumab / pharmacology
  • Ustekinumab / therapeutic use


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Gastrointestinal Agents
  • Il17a protein, mouse
  • Interleukin-17
  • Interleukin-23
  • Interleukins
  • Phenylbutyrates
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Tunicamycin
  • 4-phenylbutyric acid
  • Ustekinumab
  • interleukin-22

Associated data