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Mucosal Immunol. 2017 Jan;10(1):35-45. doi: 10.1038/mi.2016.30. Epub 2016 Apr 6.

MAIT cells reside in the female genital mucosa and are biased towards IL-17 and IL-22 production in response to bacterial stimulation.

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Unit of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine Solna, Center for Molecular Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Karolinska University Hospital Solna, Stockholm, Sweden.
Center for Infectious Medicine, Department of Medicine Huddinge, Karolinska Institutet, Karolinska University Hospital Huddinge, Stockholm, Sweden.
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Danderyd Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.
Department of Clinical Pathology/Cytology, Capio St Göran Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.


The female genital tract (FGT) mucosa is a critically important site for immune defense against microbes. Mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells are an innate-like T-cell population that recognizes microbial riboflavin metabolite antigens in an MR1-dependent manner. The role of MAIT cells in the FGT mucosa is unknown. Here, we found that MAIT cells and MR1+ antigen-presenting cells were present in the upper and lower FGT, with distinct tissue localization of MAIT cells in endometrium vs. cervix. The MAIT cells from the FGT and blood displayed a distinct phenotype with expression of interleukin (IL)-18Rα, CD127, α4β7, PD-1, as well as the transcription factors promyelocytic leukemia zinc finger (PLZF), RORγt, Helios, Eomes, and T-bet. Their expression levels of PLZF and Eomes were lower in the FGT compared with blood. When stimulated with Escherichia coli, MAIT cells from the FGT displayed a bias towards IL-17 and IL-22 expression, whereas blood MAIT cells produced primarily IFN-γ, TNF, and Granzyme B. Furthermore, both FGT- and blood-derived MAIT cells were polyfunctional and contributed to the T-cell-mediated response to E. coli. Thus, MAIT cells in the genital mucosa have a distinct IL-17/IL-22 profile and may have an important role in the immunological homeostasis and control of microbes at this site.

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