Emerging role of gammadelta T-cells in health and disease

Blood Rev. 2002 Dec;16(4):203-6. doi: 10.1016/s0268-960x(02)00029-2.


The majority of T lymphocytes in the peripheral blood bear the alphabeta type of T-cell receptor (TCR) and less than 5% of circulating T lymphocytes bear the gammadelta type of TCR. The alphabeta and gammadelta T-cells contribute differently to the host immune defense. The immunologic function of gammadelta T-cell in humans is gradually unraveling. Pathologic studies have shown a relatively high proportion of gammadelta T-cells in the gastrointestinal mucosa, skin, and splenic red pulp where they appear to have an important immunologic function against pathogens attempting to enter body through the mucosal surfaces and possibly the skin. More data are emerging about the role of gammadelta T-cells in the course of infectious diseases and in the pathogenesis of autoimmunity. The possible role of these cells in immunologic surveillance against cancer has been inferred from their preferential expansion in certain malignancies. In parallel to the low frequency of these cells in normal lymphocytes, lymphomas bearing gammadelta type of T-cell receptors on cell surface are rare. These include hepatosplenic and non-hepatosplenic (including those involving the skin and those involving nasal cavity and upper aero digestive tract) and the rare non-B-cell cases of lymphomas seen in the immunosuppressed organ transplant patients. The limited available clinical data about gammadelta T-cell lymphomas suggest that these lymphomas tend to have an aggressive course particularly the hepatosplenic form with poor response to multi-agent chemotherapy and short median survival.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmunity / immunology
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / etiology
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta / genetics
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta / immunology
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta / physiology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / pathology


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