Intraepithelial lymphocytes promote intestinal regeneration through CD160/HVEM signaling

Mucosal Immunol. 2024 Apr;17(2):257-271. doi: 10.1016/j.mucimm.2024.02.004. Epub 2024 Feb 8.


Chemotherapy and radiotherapy frequently lead to intestinal damage. The mechanisms governing the repair or regeneration of intestinal damage are still not fully elucidated. Intraepithelial lymphocytes (IELs) are the primary immune cells residing in the intestinal epithelial layer. However, whether IELs are involved in intestinal epithelial injury repair remains unclear. Here, we found that IELs rapidly infiltrated the intestinal crypt region and are crucial for the recovery of the intestinal epithelium post-chemotherapy. Interestingly, IELs predominantly promoted intestinal regeneration by modulating the proliferation of transit-amplifying (TA) cells. Mechanistically, the expression of CD160 on IELs allows for interaction with herpes virus entry mediator (HVEM) on the intestinal epithelium, thereby activating downstream nuclear factor kappa (NF-κB) signaling and further promoting intestinal regeneration. Deficiency in either CD160 or HVEM resulted in reduced proliferation of intestinal progenitor cells, impaired intestinal damage repair, and increased mortality following chemotherapy. Remarkably, the adoptive transfer of CD160-sufficient IELs rescued the Rag1 deficient mice from chemotherapy-induced intestinal inflammation. Overall, our study underscores the critical role of IELs in intestinal regeneration and highlights the potential applications of targeting the CD160-HVEM axis for managing intestinal adverse events post-chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Intestines
  • Intraepithelial Lymphocytes* / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Receptors, Immunologic* / metabolism
  • Regeneration
  • Signal Transduction


  • Receptors, Immunologic