DOP70 High-dimensional analysis reveals a novel signature for IL-17 producing CD8 T cells in inflammatory bowel disease

A.M. Globig1, P. Otto-Mora1, A. Hipp1, M. Heeg2, H. Schwacha1, V. Tomov3, R. Thimme1, P. Hasselblatt1, B. Bengsch1

1Department of Medicine II, Gastroenterology, Hepatology, Endocrinology, and Infectious Diseases, University Medical Center Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany, 2Institute for Immunodeficiency, Center for Chronic Immunodeficiency, University Medical Center Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany, 3Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA


The pathogenesis of IBD has previously mainly been associated with a dysregulation of CD4 T-cell responses, and active disease is linked to induction of pathogenic IL-17 producing T helper cells. Importantly, CD8 T cells can also produce IL-17 and demonstrate a significant increase in active IBD. However, it remains unclear whether this is due to conventional or unconventional T-cell responses and whether these CD8 responses could play a role as novel biomarkers or therapeutic targets of active IBD.


We isolated lymphocytes from the peripheral blood and intestinal tissue of IBD patients (n = 56) and performed a detailed analysis of CD8 T-cell phenotype and function using high-parametric flow cytometry and mass cytometry in combination with algorithm-aided bioinformatic analysis.


We observe a significant increase in IL-17 production by CD8 T cells in active IBD, primarily produced by conventional CD8 T cells. Unconventional T-cell subsets (e.g. MAIT cells, γδ T cells and NKT cells) represented only ~30% (peripheral blood) or ~25% (intestinal tissue) of IL-17 producing CD8 T cells (Tc17). The mass cytometric analysis identified Tc17 cells as a distinct cell population within the intestinal CD8 T-cell compartment that can be further subdivided into 3 subsets which share expression of phenotypic markers such as CD6, CD39, CD69 and PD1 and a low expression of CD27. This novel signature was validated in a separate cohort of IBD patients. Moreover, at initial IBD diagnosis, the IL-17 signature is associated with flare-free survival in a retrospective cohort analysis based on published transcriptome data.


Our data indicate that conventional IL-17 producing CD8 T cells are a very distinct cell population that is linked to IBD activity. The identification of a novel IL-17 CD8 signature may help guide treatment decisions as a biomarker and for immunotherapeutic approaches.