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Keywords:

  • IL-17A;
  • IL-22;
  • Polyfunctionality;
  • TCR repertoire;
  • Th17

Abstract

The ontogenic relationship between pro-inflammatory populations of interleukin-17 (IL-17A)- and/or IL-22-producing T cells and other T-cell subsets is currently unclear in humans. To appreciate T helper cell-lineage commitment, we combined cytokine production profiles of in vitro expanded T-cell clones with T-cell receptor (TCR) clonotypic signatures. Moreover, ex vivo cytokine production profiles at the single-cell level were analyzed using an original approach based on the hierarchical cluster analysis of multiparametric flow cytometry data. These combined approaches enabled the delineation of distinct functional T-cell subsets, including Th1, Th2, Tr1, Th17 cells and a highly polyfunctional IL-22-producing T-cell population. Cluster analysis highlighted that the IL-22-producing T-cell population should be considered independently from the Th17 and Th1 subsets, although it was more closely related to the former. In parallel, we observed extensive TCRαβ sharing across all five subsets defined. The strategy described here allows the objective definition of cellular subsets and an unbiased insight into their similarities. Together, our results underscore the ontogenic plasticity of CD4+ T-cell progenitors, which can adopt a differentiation profile irrespective of antigen specificity.