American Association for the Advancement of Science, Science Immunology, 56(6), p. eaaz6563, 2021
Interleukin-17A– (IL-17A) and IL-17F–producing CD4+ T helper cells (TH17 cells) are implicated in the development of chronic inflammatory diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and its animal model, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). TH17 cells also orchestrate leukocyte invasion of the central nervous system (CNS) and subsequent tissue damage. However, the role of IL-17A and IL-17F as effector cytokines is still confused with the encephalitogenic function of the cells that produce these cytokines, namely, TH17 cells, fueling a long-standing debate in the neuroimmunology field. Here, we demonstrated that mice deficient for IL-17A/F lose their susceptibility to EAE, which correlated with an altered composition of their gut microbiota. However, loss of IL-17A/F in TH cells did not diminish their encephalitogenic capacity. Reconstitution of a wild-type–like intestinal microbiota or reintroduction of IL-17A specifically into the gut epithelium of IL-17A/F–deficient mice reestablished their susceptibility to EAE. Thus, our data demonstrated that IL-17A and IL-17F are not encephalitogenic mediators but rather modulators of intestinal homeostasis that indirectly alter CNS-directed autoimmunity.