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Journal of Immunology Research
Volume 2014, Article ID 546596, 8 pages
Review Article

Mechanisms of Innate Lymphoid Cell and Natural Killer T Cell Activation during Mucosal Inflammation

1Mikrobiologisches Institut-Klinische Mikrobiologie, Immunologie und Hygiene, Universitätsklinikum Erlangen, Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Wasserturmstraße 3/5, 91054 Erlangen, Germany
2Division of Immunobiology, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Cincinnati, OH 45229, USA

Received 1 February 2014; Accepted 28 April 2014; Published 28 May 2014

Academic Editor: Dipyaman Ganguly

Copyright © 2014 David Nau et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Mucosal surfaces in the airways and the gastrointestinal tract are critical for the interactions of the host with its environment. Due to their abundance at mucosal tissue sites and their powerful immunomodulatory capacities, the role of innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) and natural killer T (NKT) cells in the maintenance of mucosal tolerance has recently moved into the focus of attention. While NKT cells as well as ILCs utilize distinct transcription factors for their development and lineage diversification, both cell populations can be further divided into three polarized subpopulations reflecting the distinction into Th1, Th2, and Th17 cells in the adaptive immune system. While bystander activation through cytokines mediates the induction of ILC and NKT cell responses, NKT cells become activated also through the engagement of their canonical T cell receptors (TCRs) by (glyco)lipid antigens (cognate recognition) presented by the atypical MHC I like molecule CD1d on antigen presenting cells (APCs). As both innate lymphocyte populations influence inflammatory responses due to the explosive release of copious amounts of different cytokines, they might represent interesting targets for clinical intervention. Thus, we will provide an outlook on pathways that might be interesting to evaluate in this context.