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Highly Accessed Open Badges Review

Human Th17 cells

Sergio Romagnani

Author Affiliations

Department of Internal Medicine, University of Florence, Viale Morgagni, 85 Firenze 50134, Italy

Arthritis Research & Therapy 2008, 10:206  doi:10.1186/ar2392

Published: 18 April 2008


The discovery in mice of a new lineage of CD4+ effector T helper (Th) cells that selectively produce IL-17 has provided exciting new insights into immune regulation, host defence, and the pathogenesis of autoimmune and other chronic inflammatory disorders. This population of CD4+ Th cells, which has been termed 'Th17', indeed plays an apparently critical role in the pathogenesis of some murine models of autoimmunity. Interestingly, murine Th17 cells share a common origin with Foxp3+ T regulatory cells, because both populations are produced in response to transforming growth factor-β, but they develop into Th17 cells only when IL-6 is simultaneously produced. Initial studies in humans have confirmed the existence of Th17 cells, but they have shown that the origin of these cells in humans differs from that in mice, with IL-1β and IL-23 being the major cytokines responsible for their development. Moreover, the presence in the circulation and in various tissues of Th cells that can produce both IL-17 and interferon-γ, as well as the flexibility of human Th17 clones to produce interferon-γ in addition to IL-17 in response to IL-12, suggests that there may be a developmental relationship between Th17 and Th1 cells, at least in humans. Resolving this issue has great implications in tems of establishing the respective pathogenic roles of Th1 and Th17 cells in autoimmune disorders. In contrast, it is unlikely that Th17 cells contribute to the pathogenesis of human allergic IgE-mediated disorders, because IL-4 and IL-25 (a powerful inducer of IL-4) are both potent inhibitors of Th17 cell development.