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A complex network of interactions exists between the microbiome, the epithelium, and immune cells that reside along the walls of the gastrointestinal tract. The intestinal immune system has been assigned with the difficult task of discriminating between commensal, harmless bacteria, and invading pathogens that translocate across the epithelial monolayer. Importantly, it is trained to maintain tolerance against commensals, and initiate protective immune responses against pathogens to secure intestinal homeostasis. Breakdown of this fine balance between the host and its intestinal microbiota can lead to intestinal inflammation and subsequently to development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). A decade since their discovery, innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) are now recognized as important regulators of intestinal homeostasis. ILC3s have emerged as a critical subset in the gut. They are the most phenotypically diverse ILC population and interact directly with numerous different cell types (haematopoietic and non-haematopoeitic), as well as interface with the bacterial flora. In addition to their contribution to intestinal pathogen immunity, they also mitigate against tissue damage occurring following acute injury, by facilitating tissue repair and regeneration, a key function in the maintenance of intestinal homeostasis. However, in chronic inflammation the tables are turned and ILC3s may acquire a pro-inflammatory phenotype in the gut. Chronic ILC activation can lead to persistent inflammation contributing to IBD and/or colorectal cancer. In this review, we discuss current knowledge of group 3 ILCs and their contributions to intestinal homeostasis and disease leading to novel therapeutic targets and clinical approaches that may inform novel treatment strategies for immune-mediated disorders, including IBD.

Original publication




Journal article


Front Immunol

Publication Date





Crohn's disease, IBD, group 3 innate lymphoid cells, intestinal inflammation, symbiosis, ulcerative colitis