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Critical Reviews™ in Immunology
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ISSN Print: 1040-8401
ISSN Online: 2162-6472

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Critical Reviews™ in Immunology

DOI: 10.1615/CritRevImmunol.v18.i4.30
pages 327-357

Role of γδ T Lymphocytes in Immune Response in Humans and Mice

Alfredo Salerno
Institute of Advanced Diagnostic Methodologies, National Research Council and Institute of General Pathology, University of Palermo, 90135 Palermo, Italy
Francesco Dieli
Institute of General Pathology, University of Palermo, 90135 Palermo, Italy


T lymphocytes recognize antigen through the T cell receptor. T cells expressing the γδ T cell receptor have been found in many species. Whereas murine αβ T cells are concentrated in the lymphoid organs, γδ T cells represent only a minor population in the adult thymus and peripheral lymphoid organs (less than 5% of the population). However, murine γδ cells predominate in epidermis, in epithelial layers of small intestine, in lung, and in female reproductive organs. In contrast, human γδ cells predominate in lymphoid organs. Despite extensive progress in the molecular characterization of the γδ T cell receptor and its genes, the physiological role of γδ T cells has remained elusive for many years. It is becoming now clear that, in contrast to αβ cells that recognize peptide/MHC complexes, γδ T cells appear to recognize unprocessed proteic antigens and, in humans, also a class of widely represented nonproteic antigens containing critical phosphate moieties. Similarly, it is now known that γδ cells can perform a vast array of immune effector functions and appear to play important roles in antimicrobial immunity as well as in chronic inflammatory reactions.

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