Gamma/delta cells

Annu Rev Immunol. 1993;11:637-85. doi: 10.1146/annurev.iy.11.040193.003225.


Before TCR rearrangements, T cell progenitors are committed not only to the alpha beta and gamma delta T cell lineage but also to various subsets of both lineages. In the mouse, distinct gamma delta T cell subsets can develop in the fetal thymus, the adult thymus, or independently of a thymus, probably in intestinal epithelia. The two subsets that develop in the fetal thymus home to and are maintained throughout adult life in the skin and the mucosa of the uterus, vagina, and tongue. They are monospecific. This unusual restriction in receptor repertoires is the result of severe limitations in the generation of diversity in the fetal progenitors of these subsets and the thymic selection. After birth, one gamma delta T cell subset appears in the blood, spleen, and lymph nodes and one in the intestinal epithelia. The receptor repertoires of these subsets are characterized by the preferential usage of particular V gamma gene segments and extensive junctional diversity. Several murine and human gamma delta T cell clones have been shown to recognize classical MHC class I and class II proteins or MHC class I-like proteins, and in very few cases the presented peptides are known. We suspect that the various murine gamma delta T cell subsets interact with different antigen presenting cells which utilize different antigen presenting proteins and reside in different tissues. The function of gamma delta T cells remains unknown. Preliminary results of experiments with gene knock out mice which lack either alpha beta T cells or gamma delta T cells or both suggest that gamma delta T cells do not function as helper cells in humoral immune responses but may complement alpha beta T cells in the defense against various microorganisms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / immunology
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / immunology
  • Histocompatibility Antigens
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mycobacterium / immunology
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta*
  • Species Specificity
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*


  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Histocompatibility Antigens
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta