CCR6 and NK1.1 distinguish between IL-17A and IFN-γ-producing γδ effector T cells

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Abstract

γδ T cells are a potent source of innate IL-17A and IFN-γ, and they acquire the capacity to produce these cytokines within the thymus. However, the precise stages and required signals that guide this differentiation are unclear. Here we show that the CD24low CD44high effector γδ T cells of the adult thymus are segregated into two lineages by the mutually exclusive expression of CCR6 and NK1.1. Only CCR6+ γδ T cells produced IL-17A, while NK1.1+ γδ T cells were efficient producers of IFN-γ but not of IL-17A. Their effector phenotype correlated with loss of CCR9 expression, particularly among the NK1.1+ γδ T cells. Accordingly, both γδ T-cell subsets were rare in gut-associated lymphoid tissues, but abundant in peripheral lymphoid tissues. There, they provided IL-17A and IFN-γ in response to TCR-specific and TCR-independent stimuli. IL-12 and IL-18 induced IFN-γ and IL-23 induced IL-17A production by NK1.1+ or CCR6+ γδ T cells, respectively. Importantly, we show that CCR6+ γδ T cells are more responsive to TCR stimulation than their NK1.1+ counterparts. In conclusion, our findings support the hypothesis that CCR6+ IL-17A-producing γδ T cells derive from less TCR-dependent selection events than IFN-γ-producing NK1.1+ γδ T cells.

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