The biology and functional importance of MAIT cells

Nat Immunol. 2019 Sep;20(9):1110-1128. doi: 10.1038/s41590-019-0444-8. Epub 2019 Aug 12.


In recent years, a population of unconventional T cells called 'mucosal-associated invariant T cells' (MAIT cells) has captured the attention of immunologists and clinicians due to their abundance in humans, their involvement in a broad range of infectious and non-infectious diseases and their unusual specificity for microbial riboflavin-derivative antigens presented by the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I-like protein MR1. MAIT cells use a limited T cell antigen receptor (TCR) repertoire with public antigen specificities that are conserved across species. They can be activated by TCR-dependent and TCR-independent mechanisms and exhibit rapid, innate-like effector responses. Here we review evidence showing that MAIT cells are a key component of the immune system and discuss their basic biology, development, role in disease and immunotherapeutic potential.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen Presentation / immunology*
  • Antigens / immunology
  • Disease Susceptibility / immunology
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology
  • Mice
  • Minor Histocompatibility Antigens / immunology*
  • Mucosal-Associated Invariant T Cells / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology*


  • Antigens
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • MR1 protein, human
  • Minor Histocompatibility Antigens
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell