Group 3 innate lymphoid cells mediate intestinal selection of commensal bacteria–specific CD4+ T cells

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Science  29 May 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6238, pp. 1031-1035
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa4812

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Innate lymphoid cells keep gut T cells in check

Trillions of bacteria inhabit our guts. So do many types of immune cells, including T cells, which might be expected to attack these bacteria. How, then, do our bodies manage to keep the peace? Working in mice, Hepworth et al. report one such mechanism. A population of immune cells, called innate lymphoid cells, directly killed CD4+ T cells that react to commensal gut microbes. Some of the specifics of this process parallel how the immune system keeps developing self-reactive T cells in check in the thymus. Furthermore, this peacekeeping process may be disrupted in children with inflammatory bowel disease.

Science, this issue p. 1031


Inflammatory CD4+ T cell responses to self or commensal bacteria underlie the pathogenesis of autoimmunity and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), respectively. Although selection of self-specific T cells in the thymus limits responses to mammalian tissue antigens, the mechanisms that control selection of commensal bacteria–specific T cells remain poorly understood. Here, we demonstrate that group 3 innate lymphoid cell (ILC3)–intrinsic expression of major histocompatibility complex class II (MHCII) is regulated similarly to thymic epithelial cells and that MHCII+ ILC3s directly induce cell death of activated commensal bacteria–specific T cells. Further, MHCII on colonic ILC3s was reduced in pediatric IBD patients. Collectively, these results define a selection pathway for commensal bacteria–specific CD4+ T cells in the intestine and suggest that this process is dysregulated in human IBD.

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