MAIT cells, surveyors of a new class of antigen: development and functions

Curr Opin Immunol. 2013 Apr;25(2):174-80. doi: 10.1016/j.coi.2013.01.005. Epub 2013 Feb 17.


Mucosal associated invariant T (MAIT) cells are evolutionarily conserved T cells that are restricted by the non-classical MHC-1b molecule, MR1. MAIT cells are selected on hematopoietic cells, and exit the thymus with a naïve phenotype before expanding in the periphery and attaining a memory phenotype. MAIT cells represent an abundant oligoclonal population in human blood and liver. MAIT cells react against a newly identified class of antigens: vitamin B metabolites, which are found in most bacteria and yeasts. MAIT cells secrete IFN-γ and IL-17 and their frequencies are modified in several diseases. The specificity, evolutionary conservation and unique features of MAIT cells indicate important functions, either against a ubiquitous pathogen or in gut immune/epithelial homeostasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens / immunology*
  • Antigens / metabolism
  • Humans
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Vitamin B Complex / immunology*
  • Vitamin B Complex / metabolism*


  • Antigens
  • Vitamin B Complex