Primary responses of human T cells to mycobacteria: a frequent set of gamma/delta T cells are stimulated by protease-resistant ligands

Eur J Immunol. 1990 May;20(5):1175-9. doi: 10.1002/eji.1830200534.


T lymphocyte subsets expressing either T cell receptor alpha/beta or gamma/delta were selected from human peripheral blood T cells and proliferative responses to molecular mass-fractionated mycobacterial lysates were determined. alpha/beta T cells primarily responded to fractions greater than 30 kDa whereas gamma/delta T cells preferentially reacted to fractions less than 3 kDa. Protease digestion abolished the stimulating activities for alpha/beta T cells, confirming that alpha/beta T cells respond to protein components. In contrast, components recognized by gamma/delta T cells proved resistant to protease digestion. In limiting dilution studies, frequencies of proliferating gamma/delta T cells remained virtually unaltered by protease treatment of stimulating lysates, while those of alpha/beta T cells became almost undetectable. Furthermore, only few gamma/delta T cells responded to the 65-kDa heat-shock protein. Our data indicate that, unlike alpha/beta T cells, gamma/delta T cells respond to mycobacterial components which are resistant to vigorous protease digestion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Bacterial / immunology
  • Chromatography, Gel
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / immunology
  • Humans
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Molecular Weight
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / immunology*
  • Peptide Hydrolases
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / physiology*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta
  • Peptide Hydrolases