CD1 molecules present lipid antigens to T cells. An intriguing subset of human T cells recognize CD1-expressing cells without deliberately added lipids. Frequency, subset distribution, clonal composition, naïve-to-memory dynamic transition of these CD1 self-reactive T cells remain largely unknown. By screening libraries of T-cell clones, generated from CD4(+) or CD4(-) CD8(-) double negative (DN) T cells sorted from the same donors, and by limiting dilution analysis, we find that the frequency of CD1 self-reactive T cells is unexpectedly high in both T-cell subsets, in the range of 1/10-1/300 circulating T cells. These T cells predominantly recognize CD1a and CD1c and express diverse TCRs. Frequency comparisons of T-cell clones from sorted naïve and memory compartments of umbilical cord and adult blood show that CD1 self-reactive T cells are naïve at birth and undergo an age-dependent increase in the memory compartment, suggesting a naïve/memory adaptive-like population dynamics. CD1 self-reactive clones exhibit mostly Th1 and Th0 functional activities, depending on the subset and on the CD1 isotype restriction. These findings unveil the unanticipated relevance of self-lipid T-cell response in humans and clarify the basic parameters of the lipid-specific T-cell physiology.
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