Blood, lymphoid tissues, and placenta contain diverse subpopulations of natural killer (NK) cells that possess distinct immune functions. Recent studies have shown that human and mouse gut-associated lymphoid tissues harbor a unique NK cell subset that specializes in production of interleukin (IL)-22. This cytokine plays a role in host defense of mucosal barriers, although dysregulated secretion may cause autoimmune disease. In parallel, human fetal lymphoid tissue inducer (LTi) cells and mouse adult LTi-like cells in secondary lymphoid tissues were found to release IL-22, as well as IL-17, a proinflammatory cytokine that mediates host defense against extracellular pathogens. Here, we compare these recently identified immune cells, reviewing what is known about their anatomical location, differentiation requirements, function, and potential involvement in host defense and autoimmunity. Finally, we discuss the challenges faced in furthering our understanding of the developmental relationships and role of NK and LTi-like cells in mucosal immune responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-23
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 17 2009


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