IL-12 drives functional plasticity of human group 2 innate lymphoid cells.
Group 2 innate lymphoid cells (ILC2) include IL-5- and IL-13-producing CRTh2(+)CD127(+)cells that are implicated in early protective immunity at mucosal surfaces. Whereas functional plasticity has been demonstrated for both human and mouse ILC3 subsets that can reversibly give rise to IFN-γ-producing ILC1, plasticity of human or mouse ILC2 has not been shown. Here, we analyze the phenotypic and functional heterogeneity of human peripheral blood ILC2. Although subsets of human CRTh2(+)ILC2 differentially express CD117 (c-kit receptor), some ILC2 surface phenotypes are unstable and can be modulated in vitro. Surprisingly, human IL-13(+)ILC2 can acquire the capacity to produce IFN-γ, thereby generating plastic ILC2. ILC2 cultures demonstrated that IFN-γ(+)ILC2 clones could be derived and were stably associated with increased T-BET expression. The inductive mechanism for ILC2 plasticity was mapped to the IL-12-IL-12R signaling pathway and was confirmed through analysis of patients with Mendelian susceptibility to mycobacterial disease due to IL-12Rβ1 deficiencies that failed to generate plastic ILC2. We also detected IL-13(+)IFN-γ(+)ILC2 ex vivo in intestinal samples from Crohn's disease patients. These results demonstrate cytokine production plasticity for human ILC2 and further suggest that environmental cues can dictate ILC phenotype and function for these tissue-resident innate effector cells.