Changing jejunal gamma delta T cell receptor (TCR)-bearing intraepithelial lymphocyte density in coeliac disease

Clin Exp Immunol. 1999 Jul;117(1):51-5. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2249.1999.00948.x.


The function of jejunal intraepithelial gamma delta+ T cells is obscure, but they are commonly implicated as playing a role in inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. In coeliac disease (CoD), there are controversial reports as to gluten dependency of these cells. We have now studied the small bowel mucosal intraepithelial T cell densities, and the ratios of gamma delta+ to CD3+ T cells and gamma delta+ to alpha beta+ T cells during early disease development and on a gluten-free diet. Nine children initially excluded for CoD were followed up and rebiopsy after 0.8-4.5 years showed mucosal deterioration. Further, 21 biopsy specimens from newly diagnosed CoD patients were studied, together with 20 specimens taken from children on a gluten-free diet. During CoD development the density of gamma delta+ and alpha beta+ T cells as well as the ratios of gamma delta+ to CD3+ T cells and gamma delta+ to alpha beta+ T cells increased. In the latent stage of CoD when the small bowel mucosal architecture was still normal, two children had clearly normal densities of gamma delta+ (< 2.5 cells/100 epithelial cells) and alpha beta+ (< 25.0 cells/100 epithelial cells) T cells, and low ratios as well. In patients with newly diagnosed CoD the densities decreased significantly on a long-term gluten-free diet. We conclude that the density of intraepithelial gamma delta+ T cells as well as alphabeta+ T cells in CoD is gluten-dependent. CoD can develop in a child ingesting normal amounts of gluten and having normal jejunal mucosal morphology on biopsy and a normal density of gamma delta+ T cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Autoantibodies / immunology
  • CD3 Complex / analysis
  • Celiac Disease / diet therapy
  • Celiac Disease / immunology*
  • Celiac Disease / pathology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Glutens / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Jejunum / immunology*
  • Jejunum / pathology
  • Lymphocyte Count*
  • Lymphoid Tissue / immunology*
  • Lymphoid Tissue / pathology
  • Male
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta / analysis
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta / analysis*
  • Reticulin / immunology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / pathology


  • Autoantibodies
  • CD3 Complex
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta
  • Reticulin
  • Glutens