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Group 3 innate lymphocytes (ILC3s) upregulate IL-22 in response to elevated intracellular cAMP levels

Sah, P;Derouen, JT;Alexander, JL;Zenewicz, LA;

Group 3 innate lymphocytes (ILC3s) are important immune cells within mucosal tissues and protect against bacterial infections. They can be activated in response to the innate cytokines IL-23 or IL-1β, which rapidly increases their production of effector molecules that regulate barrier functions. Pathogens can subvert these anti-bacterial effects to evade mucosal defenses to infect the host. Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax, produces two major toxins that can modulate the immune response. We have previously shown that lethal toxin downmodulates the function of ILC3s. On the other hand, edema toxin has been shown promote T helper 17 (Th17) cell differentiation, adaptive counterparts of ILC3s, via elevation of cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP). We hypothesized that edema toxin may also modulate ILC3 function. In this study, we show that edema toxin has the opposite effect of lethal toxin; edema toxin directly activates ILC3s independently of innate cytokine stimulation. Treatment of a mouse ILC3-like cell line with edema toxin, a potent adenylate cyclase, upregulated production of the cytokine IL-22, a major effector molecule of ILC3s and a critical factor in maintaining mucosal barriers. Forskolin treatment phenocopied the effect observed with edema toxin and led to an increase in CREB phosphorylation in ILC3s. This observation has potential implications for a role for cAMP signaling in the activation of ILC3s.