Human retinoic acid–regulated CD161 + regulatory T cells support wound repair in intestinal mucosa

Giovanni A.M. Povoleri, Estefania Nova-Lamperti, Cristiano Scottà, Giorgia Fanelli, Yun Ching Chen, Pablo D. Becker, Dominic Boardman, Benedetta Costantini, Marco Romano, Polychronis Pavlidis, Reuben McGregor, Eirini Pantazi, Daniel Chauss, Hong Wei Sun, Han Yu Shih, David J. Cousins, Nichola Cooper, Nick Powell, Claudia Kemper, Mehdi PiroozniaArian Laurence, Shahram Kordasti, Majid Kazemian, Giovanna Lombardi, Behdad Afzali*

*Corresponding author for this work
9 Citations (Scopus)


Repair of tissue damaged during inflammatory processes is key to the return of local homeostasis and restoration of epithelial integrity. Here we describe CD161 + regulatory T (T reg ) cells as a distinct, highly suppressive population of T reg cells that mediate wound healing. These T reg cells were enriched in intestinal lamina propria, particularly in Crohn’s disease. CD161 + T reg cells had an all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA)-regulated gene signature, and CD161 expression on T reg cells was induced by ATRA, which directly regulated the CD161 gene. CD161 was co-stimulatory, and ligation with the T cell antigen receptor induced cytokines that accelerated the wound healing of intestinal epithelial cells. We identified a transcription-factor network, including BACH2, RORγt, FOSL2, AP-1 and RUNX1, that controlled expression of the wound-healing program, and found a CD161 + T reg cell signature in Crohn’s disease mucosa associated with reduced inflammation. These findings identify CD161 + T reg cells as a population involved in controlling the balance between inflammation and epithelial barrier healing in the gut.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Immunology
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)1403-1414
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 01.12.2018

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Infection and Inflammation Research (ZIEL)


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