Intestinal intraepithelial lymphocytes (IELs) exhibit prompt innate-like responses to microenvironmental cues and require strict control of effector functions. Here we showed that Aiolos, an Ikaros zinc-finger family member encoded by Ikzf3, acted as a regulator of IEL activation. Ikzf3 −/− CD8αα+ IELs had elevated expression of NK receptors, cytotoxic enzymes, cytokines and chemokines. Single-cell RNA sequencing of Ikzf3 −/− and Ikzf3 +/+ IELs showed an amplified effector machinery in Ikzf3 −/− CD8αα+ IELs compared to Ikzf3 +/+ counterparts. Ikzf3 −/− CD8αα+ IELs had increased responsiveness to interleukin-15, which explained a substantial part, but not all, of the observed phenotypes. Aiolos binding sites were close to those for the transcription factors STAT5 and RUNX, which promote interleukin-15 signaling and cytolytic programs, and Ikzf3 deficiency partially increased chromatin accessibility and histone acetylation in these regions. Ikzf3 deficiency in mice enhanced susceptibility to colitis, underscoring the relevance of Aiolos in regulating the effector function in IELs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-87
Number of pages11
JournalNature immunology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024


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