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J Immunol. 2012 Apr 15;188(8):3928-39. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1103582. Epub 2012 Mar 12.

Role of γδ T cells in α-galactosylceramide-mediated immunity.

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Cancer Immunology Program, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, East Melbourne, Victoria 3002, Australia.


Attempts to harness mouse type I NKT cells in different therapeutic settings including cancer, infection, and autoimmunity have proven fruitful using the CD1d-binding glycolipid α-galactosylceramide (α-GalCer). In these different models, the effects of α-GalCer mainly relied on the establishment of a type I NKT cell-dependent immune cascade involving dendritic cell, NK cell, B cell, or conventional CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cell activation/regulation as well as immunomodulatory cytokine production. In this study, we showed that γδ T cells, another population of innate-like T lymphocytes, displayed a phenotype of activated cells (cytokine production and cytotoxic properties) and were required to achieve an optimal α-GalCer-induced immune response. Using gene-targeted mice and recombinant cytokines, a critical need for IL-12 and IL-18 has been shown in the α-GalCer-induced IFN-γ production by γδ T cells. Moreover, this cytokine production occurred downstream of type I NKT cell response, suggesting their bystander effect on γδ T cells. In line with this, γδ T cells failed to directly recognize the CD1d/α-GalCer complex. We also provided evidence that γδ T cells increase their cytotoxic properties after α-GalCer injection, resulting in an increase in killing of tumor cell targets. Moreover, using cancer models, we demonstrated that γδ T cells were required for an optimal α-GalCer-mediated anti-tumor activity. Finally, we reported that immunization of wild-type mice with α-GalCer enhanced the adaptive immune response elicited by OVA, and this effect was strongly mediated by γδ T cells. We conclude that γδ T cells amplify the innate and acquired response to α-GalCer, with possibly important outcomes for the therapeutic effects of this compound.

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