The interaction between invariant Natural Killer T cells and the mucosal microbiota

Immunology. 2018 Oct;155(2):164-175. doi: 10.1111/imm.12958. Epub 2018 Jul 11.


The surface of mammalian bodies is colonized by a multitude of microbial organisms, which under normal conditions support the host and are considered beneficial commensals. This requires, however, that the composition of the commensal microbiota is tightly controlled and regulated. The host immune system plays an important role in the maintenance of this microbiota composition. Here we focus on the contribution of one particular immune cell type, invariant Natural Killer T (iNKT) cells, in this process. The iNKT cells are a unique subset of T cells characterized by two main features. First, they express an invariant T-cell receptor that recognizes glycolipid antigens presented by CD1d, a non-polymorphic major histocompatibility complex class I-like molecule. Second, iNKT cells develop as effector/memory cells and swiftly exert effector functions, like cytokine production and cytotoxicity, after activation. We outline the influence that the mucosal microbiota can have on iNKT cells, and how iNKT cells contribute to the maintenance of the microbiota composition.

Keywords: invariant Natural Killer T cells; microbiota; mucosal immunology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / immunology
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions* / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immune System
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Intestinal Mucosa / microbiology
  • Microbiota*
  • Mucous Membrane / immunology*
  • Mucous Membrane / metabolism
  • Mucous Membrane / microbiology*
  • Natural Killer T-Cells / immunology*
  • Natural Killer T-Cells / metabolism*
  • Respiratory Mucosa / immunology
  • Respiratory Mucosa / metabolism
  • Respiratory Mucosa / microbiology