T-helper 22 cells develop as a distinct lineage from Th17 cells during bacterial infection and phenotypic stability is regulated by T-bet

Mucosal Immunol. 2021 Sep;14(5):1077-1087. doi: 10.1038/s41385-021-00414-6. Epub 2021 Jun 3.


CD4+ T-helper 22 (Th22) cells are a phenotypically distinct lymphocyte subset that produces high levels of interleukin (IL)-22 without co-production of IL-17A. However, the developmental origin and lineage classification of Th22 cells, their interrelationship to Th17 cells, and potential for plasticity at sites of infection and inflammation remain largely undefined. An improved understanding of the mechanisms underpinning the outgrowth of Th22 cells will provide insights into their regulation during homeostasis, infection, and disease. To address this knowledge gap we generated 'IL-17A-fate-mapping IL-17A/IL-22 reporter transgenic mice' and show that Th22 cells develop in the gastrointestinal tract and lung during bacterial infection without transitioning via an Il17a-expressing intermediate, although in some compartments alternative transition pathways exist. Th22-cell development was not dependent on T-bet; however, this transcription factor functioned as a promiscuous T-cell-intrinsic regulator of IL-17A and IL-22 production, in addition to regulating the outgrowth, phenotypic stability, and plasticity of Th22 cells. Thus, we demonstrate that at sites of mucosal bacterial infection Th22 cells develop as a distinct lineage independently of Th17 cells; though both lineages exhibit bidirectional phenotypic flexibility within infected tissues and their draining lymph nodes, and that T-bet plays a critical regulatory role in Th22-cell function and identity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Infections / etiology*
  • Bacterial Infections / metabolism*
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Interleukin-17 / genetics
  • Interleukin-17 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-22
  • Interleukins / biosynthesis*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • T-Box Domain Proteins / metabolism*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / cytology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / physiology*
  • Th17 Cells / cytology*
  • Th17 Cells / metabolism*


  • Interleukin-17
  • Interleukins
  • T-Box Domain Proteins
  • T-box transcription factor TBX21