Recognition of a lipid antigen by CD1-restricted alpha beta+ T cells

Nature. 1994 Dec 15;372(6507):691-4. doi: 10.1038/372691a0.


Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I and class II molecules bind immunogenic peptides and present them to lymphocytes bearing the alpha beta T-cell antigen receptor (TCR). An analogous antigen-presenting function also has been proposed for the non-MHC-encoded CD1 molecules, a family of non-polymorphic, beta 2-microglobulin-associated glycoproteins expressed on most professional antigen-presenting cells. In support of this hypothesis, CD1 molecules are recognized by selected CD4-CD8- alpha beta or gamma delta TCR+ T-cell clones, and we have recently shown that CD1 molecules restrict the recognition of foreign microbial antigens by alpha beta TCR+ T cells. But the substantial structural divergence of CD1 from MHC class I and class II molecules, raises the possibility that the antigens presented by the CD1 system may differ fundamentally from those presented by MHC-encoded molecules. Here we report that a purified CD1b-restricted antigen of Mycobacterium tuberculosis presented to alpha beta TCR+ T cells is mycolic acid, a family of alpha-branched, beta-hydroxy, long-chain fatty acids found in mycobacteria. This example of non-protein microbial antigen recognition suggests that alpha beta TCR+ T cells recognize a broader range of antigens than previously appreciated and that at least one member of the CD1 family has evolved the ability to present lipid antigens.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antigen Presentation
  • Antigens, Bacterial / immunology
  • Antigens, CD / immunology*
  • Antigens, CD1
  • Cell Line
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / immunology*
  • Mycolic Acids / immunology*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Antigens, CD
  • Antigens, CD1
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Mycolic Acids
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta