Interleukin-23 receptor signaling impairs the stability and function of colonic regulatory T cells

Cell Rep. 2023 Feb 17;42(2):112128. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2023.112128. Online ahead of print.


The cytokine interleukin-23 (IL-23) is involved in the pathogenesis of inflammatory and autoimmune conditions including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IL23R is enriched in intestinal Tregs, yet whether IL-23 modulates intestinal Tregs remains unknown. Here, investigating IL-23R signaling in Tregs specifically, we show that colonic Tregs highly express Il23r compared with Tregs from other compartments and their frequency is reduced upon IL-23 administration and impairs Treg suppressive function. Similarly, colonic Treg frequency is increased in mice lacking Il23r specifically in Tregs and exhibits a competitive advantage over IL-23R-sufficient Tregs during inflammation. Finally, IL-23 antagonizes liver X receptor pathway, cellular cholesterol transporter Abca1, and increases Treg apoptosis. Our results show that IL-23R signaling regulates intestinal Tregs by increasing cell turnover, antagonizing suppression, and decreasing cholesterol efflux. These results suggest that IL-23 negatively regulates Tregs in the intestine with potential implications for promoting chronic inflammation in patients with IBD.

Keywords: CP: Immunology; IBD; IL-23R12; Treg cell; Tregs; colitis; colon; interleukin-23; ustekinumab.