gamma delta T cells in the human intestine express surface markers of activation and are preferentially located in the epithelium

Cell Immunol. 1990 Jul;128(2):619-27. doi: 10.1016/0008-8749(90)90053-t.


We have investigated the expression of the alpha beta and the gamma delta T cell receptor (TCR) in the human intestine. By immunohistology we found that 39% of CD3+ intraepithelial lymphocytes (IEL) expressed the gamma delta TCR compared to 3% of CD3+ lamina propria lymphocytes (LPL). Cytofluorometric analysis of isolated cells revealed a significantly higher proportion of gamma delta T cells among CD3+ IEL compared to LPL and peripheral blood lymphocytes. This was due to an increase in both CD8+ (low density) and CD4-CD8- gamma delta T cells in IEL. Most alpha beta IEL expressed high-density CD8. About 30% of both IEL and LPL expressed CD25 (alpha-chain of the IL-2 receptor). HML-1 expression was detected on nearly all IEL and on 27% of LPL. CD25 and HML-1 were preferentially expressed on intestinal alpha beta and gamma delta T cells, respectively. Thus, human gamma delta T cells are located preferentially in the gut epithelium and are phenotypically different from alpha beta T cells, which constitute the majority of both LPL and IEL.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte / analysis*
  • CD4 Antigens / analysis
  • CD8 Antigens
  • Epithelial Cells
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Intestines / cytology
  • Intestines / immunology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation*
  • Middle Aged
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / classification*
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2 / analysis
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte
  • CD4 Antigens
  • CD8 Antigens
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2