While most T cells use a CD3-associated α/β T cell receptor as antigen recognition
structure, a second population of T cells expresses the alternative γ/δ T cell receptor. γ/δ
T cells are a minor population in the peripheral blood but constitute a major population
among intestinal intraepithelial lymphocytes. Most γ/δ T cells recognize ligands which are
fundamentally different from the short peptides that are seen by α/β T cells in the context of
MHC class I or class II molecules. Thus, human Vδ2 T cells recognize small bacterial phosphoantigens,
alkylamines and synthetic aminobisphosphonates, whereas Vδ1 T cells recognize
stress-inducible MHC-related molecules MICA/B as well as several other ligands. At
the functional level, γ/δ T cells rapidly produce a variety of cytokines and usually exert
potent cytotoxic activity, also towards many tumor cells. In this article, we discuss the role
of γ/δ T cells as a bridge between the innate and the adaptive immune system, based on the
interpretation that γ/δ T cells use their T cell receptor as a pattern recognition receptor. Our
increasing understanding of the ligand recognition and activation mechanisms of γ/δ T cells
also opens new perspectives for the development of γ/δ T cell-based immunotherapies.
Copyright / Drug Dosage
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