Interleukin-22 Drives Endogenous Thymic Regeneration in Mice

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Science  06 Apr 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6077, pp. 91-95
DOI: 10.1126/science.1218004

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Endogenous thymic regeneration is a crucial function that allows for renewal of immune competence after stress, infection, or immunodepletion. However, the mechanisms governing this regeneration remain poorly understood. We detail such a mechanism, centered on interleukin-22 (IL-22) and triggered by the depletion of CD4+CD8+ double-positive thymocytes. Intrathymic levels of IL-22 were increased after thymic insult, and thymic recovery was impaired in IL-22–deficient mice. IL-22, which signaled through thymic epithelial cells and promoted their proliferation and survival, was up-regulated by radio-resistant RORγ(t)+CCR6+NKp46 lymphoid tissue inducer cells after thymic injury in an IL-23–dependent manner. Administration of IL-22 enhanced thymic recovery after total body irradiation. These studies reveal mechanisms of endogenous thymic repair and offer innovative regenerative strategies for improving immune competence.

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