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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Th17-related cytokines: new players in the control of chronic intestinal inflammation

Ivan Monteleone, Francesco Pallone and Giovanni Monteleone*

Author Affiliations

Dipartimento di Medicina Interna, Università Tor Vergata, Via Montpellier, 1, 00133 Rome, Italy

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BMC Medicine 2011, 9:122  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-9-122

Published: 15 November 2011

Abstract

Crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC), the main forms of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) in man, are thought to be caused by an excessive and poorly controlled immune response that is directed against components of the normal microflora. The exact sequence of events by which this pathological process is triggered and maintained is not fully understood, but studies in experimental models of IBD and data emerging from recent clinical trials indicate that T cell-derived cytokines are crucial mediators of the tissue damage. Although CD and UC have been traditionally considered two typical examples of T helper (Th)1 or Th2-associated disease respectively, it is now known that CD- and UC-related inflammation is also marked by enhanced production of cytokines made by a distinct subset of Th cells, termed Th17 cells. Th17 cytokines can have both tissue-protective and inflammatory effects in the gut and there is evidence that Th17 cells can alter their cytokine program according to the stimuli received and convert into Th1-producing cells. These novel findings have contributed to advancing our understanding of mechanisms of gut tissue damage and open new avenues for development of therapeutic strategies in IBD.