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Microbes Infect. 2005 Mar;7(3):552-9. Epub 2005 Feb 12.

Mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells: an evolutionarily conserved T cell subset.

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  • 1Laboratoire d'Immunologie and Inserm U520, Institut Curie, 26, rue d'Ulm, 70005 Paris, France.


Besides mainstream TCRalphabeta T cells harboring a very diverse repertoire, two subsets display an evolutionarily conserved invariant repertoire. This striking conservation indicates important and unique functions. CD1d-restricted NK-T cells expressing an invariant Valpha14 TCRalpha chain have been implicated in microbial and tumor responses as well as in auto-immunity. In this review, we describe the other subset, which bears the canonical hValpha7.2/mValpha19-Jalpha33 TCRalpha chain paired with a restricted set of Vbeta segments. These invariant T cells are present in mice, humans and cattle. They are preferentially located in the gut lamina propria (LP) of humans and mice and are therefore called mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells. Selection/expansion of this population requires B lymphocytes expressing MR1, a monomorphic major histocompatibility complex class I-related molecule that is also strikingly conserved in diverse mammalian species. MAIT cells are not present in germ-free mice, indicating that commensal flora is required for their expansion in the gut LP. The nature of the ligand and the putative functions of these MAIT cells are discussed.

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