Mucosa-associated microbiota drives pathogenic functions in IBD-derived intestinal iNKT cells

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Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) pathogenesis has been linked to the aberrant activation of the Gut-associated lymphoid tissues against components of the intestinal microbiota. Although the contribution of CD4+ T helper cells to inflammatory processes is being increasingly acknowledged, the functional engagement of human invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells is still poorly defined. Here, we evaluated the functional characteristics of intestinal iNKT cells during IBD pathogenesis and to exploit the role of mucosa-associated microbiota recognition in triggering iNKT cells' pro-inflammatory responses in vivo. Lamina propria iNKT cells, isolated from surgical specimens of active ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease patients and non-IBD donors, were phenotypically and functionally analyzed ex vivo, and stable cell lines and clones were generated for in vitro functional assays. iNKT cells expressing a pro-inflammatory cytokine profile were enriched in the lamina propria of IBD patients, and their exposure to the mucosa-associated microbiota drives pro-inflammatory activation, inducing direct pathogenic activities against the epithelial barrier integrity. These observations suggest that iNKT cell pro-inflammatory functions may contribute to the fuelling of intestinal inflammation in IBD patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere201800229
JournalLife Science Alliance
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019


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