Antigen Presentation by CD1 Lipids, T Cells, and NKT Cells in Microbial Immunity

Adv Immunol. 2009;102:1-94. doi: 10.1016/S0065-2776(09)01201-2.


The discovery of molecules capable of presenting lipid antigens, the CD1 family, and of the T cells that recognize them, has opened a new dimensionin our understanding of cell-mediated immunity against infection. Like MHC Class I molecules, CD1 isoforms (CD1a, b, c and d) are assembled in the ER and sent to the cell surface. However, in contrast to MHC molecules, CD1 complexes are then re-internalized into specific endocytic compartments where they can bind lipid antigens. These include a broad scope of both self and foreign molecules that range from simple fatty acids or phospholipids, to more complex glycolipids, isoprenoids, mycolates and lipopeptides. Lipid-loaded CD1 molecules are then delivered to the cell surface and can be surveyed by CD1-restricted T cells expressing alphabeta or gammadelta T Cell Receptors (TCR). It has become clear that T cell-mediated lipid antigen recognition plays an important role in detection and clearance of pathogens. CD1a, b and c-restricted T cells have been found to recognize a number of lipid antigens from M. tuberculosis. CD1d-restricted T cells are the only CD1-restricted T cell subset present in mice, which lack the genes encoding CD1a, b and c. Evidence from experiments in CD1d-restricted T cell-deficient mice indicates that these cells play an important role in the immune response against awide range of pathogens including several bacteria, viruses and parasites. One subset of CD1d-restricted T cells in particular, invariant Natural Killer T (iNKT) cells, has been extensively studied. iNKT cells are characterized by the expression of a semi-invariant TCR composed of a strictly conserved alpha chain paired with a limited repertoire of beta chains. During infection, iNKT cells are rapidly elicited. Activated iNKT cells can produce a vast array of cytokines that profoundly affect both the innate and the adaptive arms of the immune response. In this review, we describe the pathways and mechanisms of lipid antigen binding and presentation by CD1 in detail, as well as the diverse roles played by CD1-restricted T cells in the context of microbial infection.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen Presentation*
  • Antigens, CD1 / chemistry
  • Antigens, CD1 / physiology*
  • Bacteria / immunology*
  • Endocytosis
  • Fungi / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Natural Killer T-Cells / immunology*
  • Parasites / immunology*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / chemistry
  • Receptors, Leptin / physiology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Antigens, CD1
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell
  • Receptors, Leptin