Intestinal intraepithelial lymphocytes carrying the γδ TCR (γδ iIEL) are involved in the maintenance of epithelial integrity. γδ iIEL have an activated phenotype, characterized by CD69 expression and increased cell size compared with systemic T lymphocytes. As an additional activation marker, the majority of γδ iIEL express the CD8αα homodimer. However, our knowledge about cognate ligands for most γδ TCR remains fragmentary and recent advances show that γδ T cells including iIEL may be directly activated by cytokines or through NK-receptors, TLR and other pattern recognition receptors. We therefore asked whether the TCR of γδ iIEL was functional beyond its role during thymic selection. Using TcrdH2BeGFP (Tcrd, T-cell receptor δ locus; H2B, histone 2B) reporter mice to identify γδ T cells, we measured their intracellular free calcium concentration in response to TCR-crosslinking. In contrast to systemic γδ T cells, CD8αα+ γδ iIEL showed high basal calcium levels and were refractory to TCR-dependent calcium-flux induction; however, they readily produced CC chemokine ligand 4 (CCL4) and IFN-γ upon TCR triggering in vitro. Notably, in vivo blocking of the γδ TCR with specific mAb led to a decrease of basal calcium levels in CD8αα+ γδ iIEL. This suggests that the γδ TCR of CD8αα+ γδ iIEL is constantly being triggered and therefore functional in vivo.
- γδ T cells
- γδ intestinal intraepithelial lymphocytes