Glucocorticoids inhibit human hematopoietic stem cell differentiation toward a common ILC precursor

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2022 May;149(5):1772-1785. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2021.10.012. Epub 2021 Oct 21.


Background: Innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) comprise cytotoxic natural killer (NK) cells and helper ILCs (hILCs). Human hILC development is less characterized as compared with that of NK cells, although all ILCs are developmentally related. It has been reported that the immunosuppressive drugs glucocorticoids (GCs) regulate ILC function, but whether they control ILC differentiation from hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) is unknown.

Objectives: This study sought to analyze the effect of GCs on ILC development from HSCs.

Methods: This study exploited an in vitro system to generate and expand from peripheral blood HSCs a multipotent CD56+ ILC precursor able to differentiate into NK cells, ILC1s, and ILC3s. We also analyzed ex vivo, at different time points, the peripheral blood of recipients of allogeneic HSC transplantation who were or were not treated with GCs and compared ILC subset reconstitution.

Results: Invitro, GCs favor the generation of NK cells from myeloid precursors, while they strongly impair lymphoid development. In support of these data, recipients of HSC transplantation who had been treated with GCs display a lower number of circulating hILCs, including the ILC precursor (ILCP) previously identified as a systemic substrate for tissue ILC differentiation.

Conclusions: GCs impair the development of the CD117+ ILCP from CD34+ HSCs, while they do not affect the further steps of ILCP differentiation toward NK cells and hILC subsets. This reflects an association of GC treatment with a marked reduction of circulating hILCs in the recipients of HSC transplantation.

Keywords: HSCT; ILC; NK cells; glucocorticoids; hematopoietic stem cell.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD34
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Glucocorticoids* / pharmacology
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Killer Cells, Natural
  • Lymphocytes


  • Antigens, CD34
  • Glucocorticoids