The natural cytotoxicity receptor NKp46 (encoded by Ncr1) was recently shown to identify a subset of noncytotoxic, Rag-independent gut lymphocytes that express the transcription factor Rorc, produce interleukin (IL)-22, and provide innate immune protection at the intestinal mucosa. Intestinal CD3 -NKp46+ cells are phenotypically heterogeneous, comprising a minority subset that resembles classical mature splenic natural killer (NK) cells (NK1.1+, Ly49+) but also a large CD127 +NK1.1- subset of lymphoid tissue inducer (LTi)-like Rorc+ cells that has been proposed to include NK cell precursors. We investigated the developmental relationships between these intestinal CD3 -NKp46+ subsets. Gut CD3-NKp46+ cells were related to LTi and NK cells in requiring the transcriptional inhibitor Id2 for normal development. Overexpression of IL-15 in intestinal epithelial cells expanded NK1.1+ cells within the gut but had no effect on absolute numbers of the CD127+NK1.1-Rorc+ subset of CD3-NKp46+ cells. In contrast, IL-7 deficiency strongly reduced the overall numbers of CD3-NKp46+NK1. 1- cells that express Rorc and produce IL-22 but failed to restrict homeostasis of classical intestinal NK1.1+ cells. Finally, in vivo fate-mapping experiments demonstrated that intestinal NK1.1 +CD127- cells are not the progeny of Rorc-expressing progenitors, indicating that CD127+NK1.1-Rorc+ cells are not canonical NK cell precursors. These studies highlight the independent cytokine regulation of functionally diverse intestinal NKp46 + cell subsets.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes