Research Topic

Drivers of Innate Lymphoid Cell Plasticity

About this Research Topic

The recently discovered family of innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) are comprised of a diverse array of innate immune subtypes found in both lymphoid and peripheral non-lymphoid tissues. Their functions range from lymphoid organogenesis to host defense against pathogens and tumors, anti-microbial responses and tissue repair and regeneration. These functions make ILCs important regulators for both innate and adaptive immune responses.

Based on their transcription factor profile, on the secretion of specific effector molecules and on their function, ILCs are categorized into the three groups: Group-1 ILCs are under the control of the transcription factor T-bet and include cytotoxic NK cells and non-cytotoxic ILC1 cells. They secrete type-1 cytokines such as IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha in response to intracellular pathogens. Group-2 ILCs depend on the transcription factors GATA-3 and ROR-alpha and produce cytokines such as IL-5, IL-9 or IL-13 in response to extracellular parasite infections. Group-3 ILCs composed by Lymphoid Tissues inducer cells (LTi) and ILC3 cells produce IL-17 and/or IL-22 and develop under the control of the ROR-gamma t transcription factor. Although this classification is well established, dynamic changes and plasticity of ILCs have been reported.

The concept of cellular plasticity was first introduced in 1985 by Helen Blau to symbolize the capacity of a cell to change its identity. This was a novel concept as it was believed that a cell’s identity was stable and irreversible. ILCs can communicate with, and functionally respond to changes in their micro- and macro-environments. Distinct environmental clues can shape ILC responses, change the cytokine profile and switch the ILC phenotype from a pro-homeostatic into a disease-promoting state.

In this Research Topic, we welcome the submission of Original Research or Review articles that focus on elucidating the mechanisms and the capacity of innate lymphoid cells to change their functions and/or phenotypes in response to environmental cues, covering topics such as:

1) Molecular mechanisms / signaling pathways controlling ILC plasticity
2) ILC plasticity in physiological and pathological conditions
3) Potential therapeutic targets to drive, prevent or reverse ILC plasticity
4) Description of new ILC intermediates or subsets


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

The recently discovered family of innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) are comprised of a diverse array of innate immune subtypes found in both lymphoid and peripheral non-lymphoid tissues. Their functions range from lymphoid organogenesis to host defense against pathogens and tumors, anti-microbial responses and tissue repair and regeneration. These functions make ILCs important regulators for both innate and adaptive immune responses.

Based on their transcription factor profile, on the secretion of specific effector molecules and on their function, ILCs are categorized into the three groups: Group-1 ILCs are under the control of the transcription factor T-bet and include cytotoxic NK cells and non-cytotoxic ILC1 cells. They secrete type-1 cytokines such as IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha in response to intracellular pathogens. Group-2 ILCs depend on the transcription factors GATA-3 and ROR-alpha and produce cytokines such as IL-5, IL-9 or IL-13 in response to extracellular parasite infections. Group-3 ILCs composed by Lymphoid Tissues inducer cells (LTi) and ILC3 cells produce IL-17 and/or IL-22 and develop under the control of the ROR-gamma t transcription factor. Although this classification is well established, dynamic changes and plasticity of ILCs have been reported.

The concept of cellular plasticity was first introduced in 1985 by Helen Blau to symbolize the capacity of a cell to change its identity. This was a novel concept as it was believed that a cell’s identity was stable and irreversible. ILCs can communicate with, and functionally respond to changes in their micro- and macro-environments. Distinct environmental clues can shape ILC responses, change the cytokine profile and switch the ILC phenotype from a pro-homeostatic into a disease-promoting state.

In this Research Topic, we welcome the submission of Original Research or Review articles that focus on elucidating the mechanisms and the capacity of innate lymphoid cells to change their functions and/or phenotypes in response to environmental cues, covering topics such as:

1) Molecular mechanisms / signaling pathways controlling ILC plasticity
2) ILC plasticity in physiological and pathological conditions
3) Potential therapeutic targets to drive, prevent or reverse ILC plasticity
4) Description of new ILC intermediates or subsets


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

10 September 2021 Abstract
08 January 2022 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

10 September 2021 Abstract
08 January 2022 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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