Development and selection of gammadelta T cells

Immunol Rev. 2007 Feb;215:15-31. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-065X.2006.00478.x.


Two main lineages of T cells develop in the thymus: those that express the alphabeta T-cell receptor (TCR) and those that express the gammadelta TCR. Whereas the development, selection, and peripheral localization of newly differentiated alphabeta T cells are understood in some detail, these processes are less well characterized in gammadelta T cells. This review describes research carried out in this laboratory and others, which addresses several key aspects of gammadelta T-cell development, including the decision of precursor cells to differentiate into the gammadelta versus alphabeta lineage, the ordered differentiation over the course of ontogeny of functional gammadelta T-cell subsets expressing distinct TCR structures, programming of ordered Vgamma gene rearrangement in the thymus, including a molecular switch that ensures appropriate Vgamma rearrangements at the appropriate stage of development, positive selection in the thymus of gammadelta T cells destined for the epidermis, and the acquisition by developing gammadelta T cells of cues that determine their correct localization in the periphery. This research suggests a coordination of molecularly programmed events and cellular selection, which enables specialization of the thymus for production of distinct T-cell subsets at different stages of development.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology*
  • Cell Lineage / immunology
  • Gene Rearrangement, alpha-Chain T-Cell Antigen Receptor
  • Gene Rearrangement, beta-Chain T-Cell Antigen Receptor
  • Gene Rearrangement, delta-Chain T-Cell Antigen Receptor
  • Gene Rearrangement, gamma-Chain T-Cell Antigen Receptor
  • Humans
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology
  • Mice
  • Models, Immunological*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta / genetics
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta / immunology
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta / genetics
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / cytology*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*


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