Microbial colonization induces oligoclonal expansions of intraepithelial CD8 T cells in the gut

Eur J Immunol. 2004 Dec;34(12):3389-400. doi: 10.1002/eji.200425122.


Two populations of CD8(+) IEL generally express restricted, but apparently random and non-overlapping TCR repertoires. Previous studies in mice suggested that this could be explained by a dual origin of CD8(+) IEL, i.e. that CD8alphabeta(+) IEL derive from a few peripheral CD8(+) T cell lymphoblasts stimulated by microbial antigens in gut-associated lymphoid tissue, whereas CD8alphaalpha(+) IEL descend from an inefficient intestinal maturation pathway. We show here that the gut mucosa, instead, becomes seeded with surprisingly broad and generally non-overlapping CD8 IEL repertoires and that oligoclonality is induced locally after microbial colonization. In germ-free (GF) rats, both CD8alphabeta(+) and CD8alphaalpha(+) IEL displayed surprisingly diverse TCR Vbeta repertoires, although beta-chain diversity tended to be somewhat restricted in the CD8alphaalpha(+) subset. CDR3 length displays in individual Vbeta-Cbeta and Vbeta-Jbeta combinations generally revealed polyclonal distributions over 6-11 different lengths, similar to CD8(+) lymph node T cells, and CDR3beta sequencing provided further documentation of repertoire diversity. By contrast, in ex-GF rats colonized with normal commensal microflora, both CD8alphabeta(+) and CD8alphaalpha(+) IEL displayed oligoclonal CDR3 length distributions for most of the Vbeta genes analyzed. Our data suggest that microbial colonization induces apparently random clonal expansions of CD8alphabeta(+) and CD8alphaalpha(+) IEL locally in the gut.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Cell Division / immunology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / cytology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / microbiology
  • Intestine, Small / cytology
  • Intestine, Small / immunology*
  • Intestine, Small / microbiology
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology


  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell