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Mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells are innate-like T cells abundant in humans that can be activated in a TCR-independent manner by inflammatory and antiviral cytokines. In humans, the capacity for TCR-independent activation is functionally linked to a transcriptional program that can be identified by the expression of the C-type lectin receptor, CD161. In addition to MAIT cells, it has been demonstrated that a subset of γδT cells expresses CD161 and can be activated by TCR-independent cytokine stimulation. In this study, we sought to clarify the nature of cytokine-responsive human γδT cells. We could link CD161 expression on Vδ2+ versus Vδ1+ γδT cells to the observation that Vδ2+ γδT cells, but not Vδ1+ γδT cells, robustly produced IFN-γ upon stimulation with a variety of cytokine combinations. Interestingly, both CD161+ and CD161- Vδ2+ γδT cells responded to these stimuli, with increased functionality within the CD161+ subset. This innate-like responsiveness corresponded to high expression of PLZF and IL-18Rα, analogous to MAIT cells. Vδ2+ γδT cells in human duodenum and liver maintained a CD161+ IL-18Rα+ phenotype and produced IFN-γ in response to IL-12 and IL-18 stimulation. In contrast to MAIT cells, we could not detect IL-17A production but observed higher steady-state expression of Granzyme B by Vδ2+ γδT cells. Finally, we investigated the frequency and functionality of γδT cells in the context of chronic hepatitis C virus infection, as MAIT cells are reduced in frequency in this disease. By contrast, Vδ2+ γδT cells were maintained in frequency and displayed unimpaired IFN-γ production in response to cytokine stimulation. In sum, human Vδ2+ γδT cells are a functionally distinct population of cytokine-responsive innate-like T cells that is abundant in blood and tissues with similarities to human MAIT cells.

Original publication

DOI

10.3389/fimmu.2018.00756

Type

Journal article

Journal

Front Immunol

Publication Date

2018

Volume

9

Keywords

Vδ2 γδ T cells, hepatitis C virus, innate-like T cells, mucosal immunology, mucosal-associated invariant T, γδ T cells