Th17 plasticity and its changes associated with inflammatory bowel disease.
Ueno A., Ghosh A., Hung D., Li J., Jijon H.
CD4 T helper (Th) cell differentiation into distinct T cell subsets is critical to the normal function of the immune system. Until recently, the paradigm held that naïve T cells differentiated into distinct subsets under the guidance of environmental cues (e.g., cytokines) and that once polarized, these cells were committed to a particular functional state. However, the existence of transdifferentiated T cell populations, which express signature transcription factors and cytokines associated with more than one Th subset, challenges the immutability of T helper subsets and suggests that plasticity is a feature of multifaceted immune responses. How this process impacts immune dysregulation in diseases such as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) and the machinery that underlies this process is far from fully understood. Interleukin (IL)-17 secreting helper T (Th17) cells have been heavily implicated in tissue-specific immune pathology including murine models of IBD, human Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Plasticity within this subset is suggested by the existence of IL-17 secreting cells, which, can also secrete interferon-γ, the signature cytokine for Th1 cells or, can co-express the anti-inflammatory transcription factor forkhead box p3, a signature transcription factor of regulatory T cells. In this review we mainly discuss evidence for Th17 plasticity, mechanisms, which govern it, and highlight the potential to therapeutically target this process in human IBD.