Mucosal immunology

Dedicated immunosensing of the mouse intestinal epithelium facilitated by a pair of genetically coupled lectin-like receptors.

PMID 24985083


The integrity of the intestinal epithelium is constantly surveyed by a peculiar subset of innate-like T lymphocytes embedded in the epithelial cell layer, hence called intestinal intraepithelial lymphocytes (IELs). IELs are thought to act as "first-line" sentinels sensing the state of adjacent epithelial cells via both T-cell receptors and auxiliary receptors. Auxiliary receptors modulating IEL activity include C-type lectin-like receptors encoded in the natural killer gene complex such as NKG2D. Here, we report that the CTLR Nkrp1g is expressed by a subpopulation of mouse CD103(+) IELs allowing immunosensing of the intestinal epithelium through ligation of the genetically coupled CTLR Clr-f that is almost exclusively expressed on differentiated intestinal epithelial cells (IECs). Most of these Nkrp1g-expressing IELs exhibit a γδTCR(bright)Nkg2a(-) phenotype and are intimately associated with the intestinal epithelium. As Clr-f expression strongly inhibits effector functions of Nkrp1g-expressing cells and is upregulated upon poly(I:C) challenge, Clr-f molecules may quench reactivity of these IELs towards the epithelial barrier that is constantly provoked by microbial and antigenic stimuli. Altogether, we here newly characterize a genetically linked C-type lectin-like receptor/ligand pair with a highly restricted tissue expression that apparently evolved to allow for a dedicated immunosurveillance of the mouse intestinal epithelium.