The burgeoning family of unconventional T cells

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  • A Corrigendum to this article was published on 19 January 2016
  • A Corrigendum to this article was published on 22 March 2016

Abstract

While most studies of T lymphocytes have focused on T cells reactive to complexes of peptide and major histocompatibility complex (MHC) proteins, many other types of T cells do not fit this paradigm. These include CD1-restricted T cells, MR1-restricted mucosal associated invariant T cells (MAIT cells), MHC class Ib–reactive T cells, and γδ T cells. Collectively, these T cells are considered 'unconventional', in part because they can recognize lipids, small-molecule metabolites and specially modified peptides. Unlike MHC-reactive T cells, these apparently disparate T cell types generally show simplified patterns of T cell antigen receptor (TCR) expression, rapid effector responses and 'public' antigen specificities. Here we review evidence showing that unconventional T cells are an abundant component of the human immune system and discuss the immunotherapeutic potential of these cells and their antigenic targets.

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Figure 1: Comparison of unconventional and MHC-restricted T cell responses.
Figure 2: Unconventional αβ T cell populations.
Figure 3: Populations of γδ T cells.
Figure 4: Frequency of some antigen-specific T cell types.
Figure 5: Antigens detected by unconventional αβ T cells.

Change history

  • 13 November 2015

    In the version of this article initially published, the vertical axes of Figure 4 were labeled incorrectly as "(per 1 × 105 T cells)." The correct label is "(per 1 × 106 T cells)." These errors have been corrected for the PDF and HTML versions of this article.

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Acknowledgements

We thank M. Sugita and N. LaGruta for discussions. Supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (1013667 and 1063587; 1020770 to D.I.G.; and AF50 to J.R.), the Australian Research Council (CE140100011 and LE110100106; and FT140100278 to A.P.U.), Cancer Council Victoria, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Vaccine Accelerator, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (AI049313, AR048632 and U19111224).

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Correspondence to Dale I Godfrey.

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D.I.G. is chair of the scientific advisory panel for Avalia Immunotherapies.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Table 1

Characteristics of non-conventional T cells (PDF 43 kb)

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Godfrey, D., Uldrich, A., McCluskey, J. et al. The burgeoning family of unconventional T cells. Nat Immunol 16, 1114–1123 (2015) doi:10.1038/ni.3298

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