Innate lymphocytes (ILC) are novel populations of lymphocytes that reside at mucosal barriers and play critical functions in clearing infections, inducing allergic inflammation or directing tissue repair. Different lineages of ILCs are specialized in the secretion of polarized sets of cytokines that orchestrate rapid protective responses against various categories of pathogens. Thus, their study is relevant to a broad range of diseases across western and third-world countries. The development and the lineage relationships between different populations of ILCs, including ILC2s, ILC22s, lymphoid tissue inducers (LTis) and NK cells, are poorly understood and there is considerable confusion regarding the identity and function of these ILCs in the healthy state and in the context of disease. In the absence of genetic models alowing specific manipulation of these lineages in vivo, studies have been largely limited to immunodeficient mice lacking an adaptive immune system and it is unclear whether their conclusions will apply to normal animals. This project builds on preliminary studies of PLZF-IRES-GFPCre reporter mice produced in our laboratory showing that the transcription factor PLZF, previously identified as the signature of the innate-like NKT cell lineage, is also expressed at high levels during the development of ILC2s and ILC22s but not NK or LTi cells. The central hypothesis is that PLZF marks a common bone marrow precursor to ILC2s and ILC22s and is essential for normal development and function. The objective of this application is to use PLZF-IRES-GFPCre mice to identify the bone marrow precursors of ILCs, characterize their molecular signature and genetically manipulate ILCs in vivo in order to define their function in well-established models of enteric infections.
The specific aims are 1) to identify the PLZF-expressing bone marrow precursor of ILC lineages, 2) to characterize its molecular signature;3) to create ILC-defective mouse models for studies of enteric infections. The proposal is innovative and significant because it identifies a novel bone marrow precursor and a novel transcription factor for ILCs and because it will produce models for studies of ILCs in the context of infections in immunocompetent animals.
The proposed research will generate new tools and concepts to understand the development and function of a recently discovered population of immune cells called innate lymphoid cells (ILC) that are critically involved in allergic diseases and in protecton against infections. It is relevant to public health because the results will allow the development of new approaches to prevent or correct defects leading to common allergic diseases or to the control of infectious diseases. Thus, this work will directly support the overall NIH mission of developing fundamental knowledge that will help reduce the burden of human disease and, specifically, prevent and treat allergies and infections.