Gammadelta T cells: functional plasticity and heterogeneity

Nat Rev Immunol. 2002 May;2(5):336-45. doi: 10.1038/nri797.


Gammadelta T cells remain an enigma. They are capable of generating more unique antigen receptors than alphabeta T cells and B cells combined, yet their repertoire of antigen receptors is dominated by specific subsets that recognize a limited number of antigens. A variety of sometimes conflicting effector functions have been ascribed to them, yet their biological function(s) remains unclear. On the basis of studies of gammadelta T cells in infectious and autoimmune diseases, we argue that gammadelta T cells perform different functions according to their tissue distribution, antigen-receptor structure and local microenvironment; we also discuss how and at what stage of the immune response they become activated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoantigens / immunology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology
  • Cell Lineage
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Genes, T-Cell Receptor
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Surveillance
  • Infections / immunology
  • Mice
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta / analysis*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta / genetics
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Autoantigens
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta