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Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2000 Oct;162(4 Pt 2):S161-3.

gammadelta cells and the regulation of mucosal immune responses.

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Peter Gorer Department of Immunobiology, Guy's, King's, and St. Thomas' Medical School, University of London, London, United Kingdom.


We are only now uncovering the potentially important contributions made to immune responses by gammadelta cells. These contributions are likely to be particularly important at mucosal sites, where gammadelta cells are disproportionately enriched. Indeed, gammadelta cells have proven biological activity in the lung. In addition, gammadelta cells are also enriched in young rather than adult animals. Studies of mutant mice have demonstrated that alphabeta T cells are seemingly essential for high-affinity, cognate immunological memory, whereas gammadelta cells contribute to the early stages of an immune response and to the regulation of alphabeta T cell- and B cell-mediated immunity. To explore further the role of gammadelta cells in immune responses, we have investigated whether their contribution is greater during the early period of life, when the cells are more abundant. In a natural system of coccidial infection of gut epithelial cells, we find that alphabeta T cell responses are less essential for immunoprotection during primary challenge of young mice than is true for adult animals. This "ineffectiveness" creates a "window of importance" for the immunoprotective capacity of gammadelta cells, which seem thereby to be more crucial in young compared with older animals. The relative ineffectiveness of alphabeta T cells in young mice may be attributable to a bias toward Th2 activity. We therefore hypothesize that gammadelta cell activity, elicited by infection early in life, may compensate for defects in Th1 activity and may actually accelerate the bias in alphabeta T cells away from Th2. This has obvious implications for susceptibility to Th2-type allergic responses.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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