Human T cells use CD1 and MR1 to recognize lipids and small molecules

Curr Opin Chem Biol. 2014 Dec;23:31-8. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpa.2014.09.007. Epub 2014 Sep 29.


For decades immunologists thought that T cells solely recognize peptides bound to Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) proteins. Therefore, nearly all medical technology that seeks to measure and manipulate human T cells during immunization, infection, allergy and autoimmune diseases relies on peptide antigens. Newer insights into αβ and γδ T cell activation by CD1 or MR1 proteins greatly expand the biochemical range of T cell antigens to include lipids and non-peptidic small molecules. Moving beyond in vitro studies, the recent development of human CD1a, CD1b, CD1c and MR1 tetramers allows direct and specific enumeration of lipid-reactive and small molecule-reactive T cells, providing a new approach to study of T cell-mediated diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen Presentation
  • Antigens, CD1 / immunology*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Lipids / immunology*
  • Minor Histocompatibility Antigens
  • Protein Binding
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Antigens, CD1
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Lipids
  • MR1 protein, human
  • Minor Histocompatibility Antigens