Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

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




Journal article


Front Immunol

Publication Date





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