Targeting androgen signaling in ILC2s protects from IL-33-driven lung inflammation, independently of KLRG1

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2022 Jan;149(1):237-251.e12. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2021.04.029. Epub 2021 May 5.


Background: Allergic asthma is more severe and frequent in women than in men. In male mice, androgens negatively control group 2 innate lymphoid cell (ILC2) development and function by yet unknown mechanisms.

Objectives: We sought to investigate the impact of androgen on ILC2 homeostasis and IL-33-mediated inflammation in female lungs. We evaluated the role of androgen receptor (AR) signaling and the contribution of the putative inhibitory receptor killer cell lectin-like receptor G1 (KLRG1).

Methods: Subcutaneous pellets mimicking physiological levels of androgen were used to treat female mice together with mice expressing a reporter enzyme under the control of androgen response elements and mixed bone marrow chimeras to assess the cell-intrinsic role of AR activation within ILC2s. We generated KLRG1-deficient mice.

Results: We established that lung ILC2s express a functionally active AR that can be in vivo targeted with exogenous androgens to negatively control ILC2 homeostasis, proliferation, and function. Androgen signaling upregulated KLRG1 on ILC2s, which inhibited their proliferation on E-cadherin interaction. Despite evidence that KLRG1 impaired the competitive fitness of lung ILC2s during inflammation, KLRG1 deficiency neither alters in vivo ILC2 numbers and functions, nor did it lead to hyperactive ILC2s in either sexes.

Conclusions: AR agonists can be used in vivo to inhibit ILC2 homeostatic numbers and ILC2-dependent lung inflammation through cell-intrinsic AR activation. Although androgen signals in ILC2s to upregulate KLRG1, we demonstrate that KLRG1 is dispensable for androgen-mediated inhibition of pulmonary ILC2s.

Keywords: ILC2; KLRG1; Sex differences in asthma; androgen signaling; lung inflammation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Androgens / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Interleukin-33 / immunology
  • Lectins, C-Type / immunology*
  • Lung / immunology
  • Lung / pathology
  • Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Pneumonia / immunology*
  • Pneumonia / pathology
  • Receptors, Immunologic / immunology*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Signal Transduction
  • Testosterone / pharmacology*


  • Androgens
  • Interleukin-33
  • Klrg1 protein, mouse
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • Receptors, Immunologic
  • Testosterone