Distinct Dysfunctional States of Circulating Innate-Like T Cells in Metabolic Disease

Front Immunol. 2020 Mar 13;11:448. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2020.00448. eCollection 2020.


The immune system plays a significant role in controlling systemic metabolism. Innate-like T (ILT) cells in particular, such as mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells, invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells and γδ T cell receptor expressing cells, have been reported to promote metabolic homeostasis. However, these different ILT cell subsets have, to date, been generally studied in isolation. Here we conducted a pilot study assessing the phenotype and function of circulating MAIT, iNKT, and Vδ2+ T cells in a small cohort of 10 people with obesity and type 2 diabetes (T2D), 10 people with obesity but no diabetes, and 12 healthy individuals. We conducted phenotypic analysis by flow cytometry ex vivo, and then functional analysis after in vitro stimulation using either PMA/ionomycin or synthetic agonists, or precursors thereof, for each of the cell-types; use of the latter may provide important knowledge for the development of novel therapeutics aimed at activating human ILT cells. The results of our pilot study, conducted on circulating cells, show clear dysfunction of all three ILT cell subsets in obese and obese T2D patients, as compared to healthy controls. Importantly, while both iNKT and Vδ2+ T cell dysfunctions were characterized by diminished IL-2 and interferon-γ production, the distinct dysfunctional state of MAIT cells was instead defined by skewed subset composition, heightened sensitivity to T cell receptor engagement and unchanged production of all measured cytokines.

Keywords: MAIT cells; Vδ2+ T cells; iNKT cells; obesity; type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Circulation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / immunology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Male
  • Metabolic Diseases / immunology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mucosal-Associated Invariant T Cells / immunology*
  • Natural Killer T-Cells / immunology*
  • Obesity / immunology*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta
  • T-cell receptor Vdelta2, human