Tissue Adaptations of Memory and Tissue-Resident Gamma Delta T Cells

Front Immunol. 2018 Nov 27;9:2636. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.02636. eCollection 2018.


Epithelial and mucosal barriers are critical interfaces physically separating the body from the outside environment and are the tissues most exposed to microorganisms and potential inflammatory agents. The integrity of these tissues requires fine tuning of the local immune system to enable the efficient elimination of invasive pathogens while simultaneously preserving a beneficial relationship with commensal organisms and preventing autoimmunity. Although they only represent a small fraction of circulating and lymphoid T cells, γδ T cells form a substantial population at barrier sites and even outnumber conventional αβ T cells in some tissues. After their egress from the thymus, several γδ T cell subsets naturally establish residency in predetermined mucosal and epithelial locations, as exemplified by the restricted location of murine Vγ5+ and Vγ3Vδ1+ T cell subsets to the intestinal epithelium and epidermis, respectively. Because of their preferential location in barrier sites, γδ T cells are often directly or indirectly influenced by the microbiota or the pathogens that invade these sites. More recently, a growing body of studies have shown that γδ T cells form long-lived memory populations upon local inflammation or bacterial infection, some of which permanently populate the affected tissues after pathogen clearance or resolution of inflammation. Natural and induced resident γδ T cells have been implicated in many beneficial processes such as tissue homeostasis and pathogen control, but their presence may also exacerbate local inflammation under certain circumstances. Further understanding of the biology and role of these unconventional resident T cells in homeostasis and disease may shed light on potentially novel vaccines and therapies.

Keywords: adaptive γδ T cells; barrier infections; innate γδ T cells; memory γδ T cells; resident γδ T cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Homeostasis / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Memory / immunology*
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*


  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta