The Emerging Role of MAIT Cell Responses in Viral Infections

J Immunol. 2023 Aug 15;211(4):511-517. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.2300147.


Mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells are unconventional T cells with innate-like antimicrobial responsiveness. MAIT cells are known for MR1 (MHC class I-related protein 1)-restricted recognition of microbial riboflavin metabolites giving them the capacity to respond to a broad range of microbes. However, recent progress has shown that MAIT cells can also respond to several viral infections in humans and in mouse models, ranging from HIV-1 and hepatitis viruses to influenza virus and SARS-CoV-2, in a primarily cognate Ag-independent manner. Depending on the disease context MAIT cells can provide direct or indirect antiviral protection for the host and may help recruit other immune cells, but they may also in some circumstances amplify inflammation and aggravate immunopathology. Furthermore, chronic viral infections are associated with varying degrees of functional and numerical MAIT cell impairment, suggesting secondary consequences for host defense. In this review, we summarize recent progress and highlight outstanding questions regarding the emerging role of MAIT cells in antiviral immunity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antiviral Agents / metabolism
  • COVID-19* / metabolism
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Minor Histocompatibility Antigens / metabolism
  • Mucosal-Associated Invariant T Cells*
  • SARS-CoV-2 / metabolism


  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Antiviral Agents
  • Minor Histocompatibility Antigens