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Immunol Rev. 2007 Feb;215:154-65.

Curriculum vitae of intestinal intraepithelial T cells: their developmental and behavioral characteristics.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Keio University School of Medicine, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan.


The alimentary tract has an epithelial layer, consisting mainly of intestinal epithelial cells (IECs), that is exposed to the exterior world through the intestinal lumen. The IEC layer contains many intestinal intraepithelial T cells (IELs), and the total number of IELs constitutes the largest population in the peripheral T-cell pool. Virtually all gammadelta-IELs and many alphabeta-IELs in the mouse small intestine are known to express CD8 alpha alpha homodimers. A wide range of evidence that supports extrathymic development of these CD8 alpha alpha(+) IELs has been collected. In addition, while several studies identified cells with precursor T-cell phenotypes within the gut epithelium, how these precursors, which are dispersed along the length of the intestine, develop into gammadelta-IELs and/or alphabeta-IELs has not been clarified. The identification of lymphoid cell aggregations named 'cryptopatches' (CPs) in the intestinal crypt lamina propria of mice as sites rich in T-cell precursors in 1996 by our research group, however, provided evidence for a central site, whereby precursor IELs could give rise to T-cell receptor-bearing IELs. In this review, we discuss the development of IELs in the intestinal mucosa and examine the possibility that CPs serve as a production site of extrathymic IELs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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