BackgroundThe IL-17 family cytokines are potent drivers of colorectal cancer (CRC) development. We and others have shown that IL-17 mainly signals to tumor cells to promote CRC, but the underlying mechanism remains unclear. IL-17 also dampens Th1-armed anti-tumor immunity, in part by attracting myeloid cells to tumor. Whether IL-17 controls the activity of adaptive immune cells in a more direct manner, however, is unknown.MethodsUsing mouse models of sporadic or inducible colorectal cancers, we ablated IL-17RA in the whole body or specifically in colorectal tumor cells. We also performed adoptive bone marrow reconstitution to knockout CXCR3 in hematopoietic cells. Histological and immunological experimental methods were used to reveal the link among IL-17, chemokine production, and CRC development.ResultsLoss of IL-17 signaling in mouse CRC resulted in marked increase in the recruitment of CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) and regulatory T cells (Tregs), starting from early stage CRC lesions. This is accompanied by the increased expression of anti-inflammatory cytokines IL-10 and TGF-β. IL-17 signaling also inhibits the production of T cell attracting chemokines CXCL9 and CXCL10 by tumor cells. Conversely, the inability of hematopoietic cells to respond to CXCL9/10 resulted in decreased tumor infiltration by CTLs and Tregs, decreased levels of IL-10 and TGF-β, and increased numbers of tumor lesions. Blockade of IL-17 signaling resulted in increased expression of immune checkpoint markers. On the other hand, treatment of mouse CRC with anti-CTLA-4 antibody led to increased expression of pro-tumor IL-17.ConclusionIL-17 signals to colorectal tumor cells and inhibits their production of CXCL9/10 chemokines. By doing so, IL-17 inhibits the infiltration of CD8+ CTLs and Tregs to CRC, thus promoting CRC development. Cancer immunotherapy may be benefited by the use of anti-IL-17 agents as adjuvant therapies, which serve to block both IL-17-mediated tumor promotion and T cell exclusion.