Mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells: An evolutionarily conserved T cell subset

Emmanuel Treiner, Livine Duban, Ivan Cruz Moura, Ted Hansen, Susan Gilfillan, Olivier Lantz

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

93 Scopus citations


Besides mainstream TCRαβ T cells harboring a very diverse repertoire, two subsets display an evolutionarily conserved invariant repertoire. This striking conservation indicates important and unique functions. CD1d-restricted NK-T cells expressing an invariant Vα14 TCRα chain have been implicated in microbial and tumor responses as well as in auto-immunity. In this review, we describe the other subset, which bears the canonical hVα7.2/mVα19-Jα33 TCRα chain paired with a restricted set of Vβ segments. These invariant T cells are present in mice, humans and cattle. They are preferentially located in the gut lamina propria (LP) of humans and mice and are therefore called mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells. Selection/expansion of this population requires B lymphocytes expressing MR1, a monomorphic major histocompatibility complex class I-related molecule that is also strikingly conserved in diverse mammalian species. MAIT cells are not present in germ-free mice, indicating that commensal flora is required for their expansion in the gut LP. The nature of the ligand and the putative functions of these MAIT cells are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)552-559
Number of pages8
JournalMicrobes and Infection
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2005


  • Commensal flora
  • Lamina propria
  • MR1
  • Mucosal immune system
  • T cell
  • T cell selection
  • TCRα chain


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