Interleukin-22 drives endogenous thymic regeneration in mice
Endogenous thymic regeneration is a crucial function that allows for renewal of immune competence after stress, infection, or immunodepletion. However, the mechanisms governing this regeneration remain poorly understood. We detail such a mechanism, centered on interleukin-22 (IL-22) and triggered by the depletion of CD4(+)CD8(+) double-positive thymocytes. Intrathymic levels of IL-22 were increased after thymic insult, and thymic recovery was impaired in IL-22-deficient mice. IL-22, which signaled through thymic epithelial cells and promoted their proliferation and survival, was up-regulated by radio-resistant RORγ(t)(+)CCR6(+)NKp46(-) lymphoid tissue inducer cells after thymic injury in an IL-23-dependent manner. Administration of IL-22 enhanced thymic recovery after total body irradiation. These studies reveal mechanisms of endogenous thymic repair and offer innovative regenerative strategies for improving immune competence.