Ligand recognition by the γδ TCR and discrimination between homeostasis and stress conditions

Cell Mol Immunol. 2020 Sep;17(9):914-924. doi: 10.1038/s41423-020-0503-y. Epub 2020 Jul 24.


T lymphocytes comprise cells expressing either an αβ or a γδ TCR. The riddle how αβ TCRs are triggered by specific peptides presented in the context of MHC was elucidated some time ago. In contrast, the mechanisms that underlie antigen recognition by γδ TCRs are still baffling the scientific community. It is clear that activation of γδ TCRs does not necessarily depend on MHC antigen presentation. To date, diverse and largely host-cell-derived molecules have been identified as cognate antigens for the γδ TCR. However, for most γδ TCRs, the activating ligand is still unknown and many open questions with regard to physiological relevance and generalizable concepts remain. Especially the question of how γδ T cells can distinguish homeostatic from stress conditions via their TCR remains largely unresolved. Recent discoveries in the field might have paved the way towards a better understanding of antigen recognition by the γδ TCR and have made it conceivable to revise the current knowledge and contextualize the new findings.

Keywords: antigen recognition; gamma-delta TCR; ligands.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens / metabolism
  • Homeostasis*
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Models, Biological
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta / metabolism*
  • Stress, Physiological*


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