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IL-22BP is regulated by the inflammasome and modulates tumorigenesis in the intestine


Chronic mucosal inflammation and tissue damage predisposes patients to the development of colorectal cancer1. This association could be explained by the hypothesis that the same factors and pathways important for wound healing also promote tumorigenesis. A sensor of tissue damage should induce these factors to promote tissue repair and regulate their action to prevent development of cancer. Interleukin 22 (IL-22), a cytokine of the IL-10 superfamily, has an important role in colonic epithelial cell repair, and its levels are increased in the blood and intestine of inflammatory bowel disease patients2,3. This cytokine can be neutralized by the soluble IL-22 receptor, known as the IL-22 binding protein (IL-22BP, also known as IL22RA2); however, the significance of endogenous IL-22BP in vivo and the pathways that regulate this receptor are unknown4,5. Here we describe that IL-22BP has a crucial role in controlling tumorigenesis and epithelial cell proliferation in the colon. IL-22BP is highly expressed by dendritic cells in the colon in steady-state conditions. Sensing of intestinal tissue damage via the NLRP3 or NLRP6 inflammasomes led to an IL-18-dependent downregulation of IL-22BP, thereby increasing the ratio of IL-22/IL-22BP. IL-22, which is induced during intestinal tissue damage, exerted protective properties during the peak of damage, but promoted tumour development if uncontrolled during the recovery phase. Thus, the IL-22–IL-22BP axis critically regulates intestinal tissue repair and tumorigenesis in the colon.

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Figure 1: Increased tumorigenesis in Il22bp −/− mice in a colitis-associated colon cancer model.
Figure 2: Inverse expression of Il22bp and Il22 during chemical and mechanical intestinal tissue damage.
Figure 3: IL-22BP controls tumorigenesis in APC min/+ mice.
Figure 4: IL-18 regulates Il22bp expression by CD11c + cells.


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The authors would like to thank F. Manzo for expert administrative assistance, E. Eynon and J. Alderman for managing the mouse program. We also thank T. Taylor and G. Tokmoulina for expert help with the FACS sorting. R.A.F. is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. S.H. was supported by a post-doctoral fellowship from the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, the ‘Stiftung experimentelle Biomedizin’ and the Ernst Jung Foundation. N.G. was supported by an EMBO post-doctoral fellowship. L.A.Z. was supported by a post-doctoral fellowship from the American Cancer Society. A.J.M., D.M.V. and G.D.Y. were employees of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals at the time this work was performed. W.O. is an employee of Genentech Inc. This work was supported by R01DK077905, DK-P30-34989 and U19-AI082713 (to C.A. and R.A.F.) and by the DFG, SFB841 (to S.H.).

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Authors and Affiliations



R.A.F., S.H. and N.G. designed the experiments, analysed the data and wrote the manuscript. L.A.Z. performed colitis-associated colon cancer experiments with Il22−/− single-KO mice, and provided Il22−/− mice. F.J.H. assisted during the mouse endoscopy. L.B. performed immuno histochemistry. B.H. provided mice for colitis-associated cancer experiment. W.O.C. made key suggestions for experiments and edited the manuscript. A.J.M., D.M.V. and G.D.Y. generated Il22bp−/− mice and are employees of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. C.J.B. performed the histopathological analyses. W.O. provided IL-22 antibody and is an employee of Genentech. W.Z., J.H.C, C.A. and M.H. did the experiments using human material. S.H. and N.G. performed all other experiments.

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Correspondence to Samuel Huber.

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Competing interests

A.J.M, D.M.V. and G.D.Y. are employees of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. W.O. is an employee of Genentech Inc.

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Huber, S., Gagliani, N., Zenewicz, L. et al. IL-22BP is regulated by the inflammasome and modulates tumorigenesis in the intestine. Nature 491, 259–263 (2012).

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