Human lymphocytes bearing T cell receptor γ/δ are phenotypically diverse and evenly distributed throughout the lymphoid system

V. Groh, S. Porcelli, M. Fabii, L. L. Lanier, Louis Picker, T. Anderson, R. A. Warnke, A. K. Bhan, J. L. Strominger, M. B. Brenner

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412 Scopus citations


A direct quantitative and phenotypic cytofluorographic analysis of TCR-γ/δ+ lymphocytes as well as an immunohistologic study of their tissue distribution and microanatomy was made possible by the availability of two mAbs (anti-TCR-δ1 and anti-CγM1) specific for framework determinants on human TCR γ and δ chains, respectively. TCR-γ/δ+ lymphocytes, ranging between >0.5 and 16% of CD3+ cells, were found in fetal and postnatal thymus, fetal and adult peripheral lymphoid organs, and adult peripheral blood. While TCR-γ/δ+ lymphocytes comprised a small subpopulation of T cells (mean, ~4%) occasionally >10-16% of CD3+ cells expressed TCR-γ/δ. Virtually all TCR-γ/δ+ thymocytes/lymphocytes expressed CD7, CD2, and CD5 but were heterogeneous with respect to their expression of CD1, CD4, CD8, CD28, CD11b, CD16, and Leu-7. Human TCR-γ/δ+ cells populate both organized lymphoid tissues (thymus, tonsil, lymphnode, and spleen) as well as the gut- and skin-associated lymphoid systems at similar frequencies without obvious tropism for epithelial microenvironments. TCR-γ/δ+ lymphocytes tend to be located within a given organ wherever TCR-α/β+ lymphocytes are found. This study shows that TCR-γ/δ+ lymphocytes constitute a small but numerically important, phenotypically diverse T cell population distributed throughout the body. These results support the concept that TCR-γ/δ+ cells comprise a distinct, functionally heterogeneous, mature T cell sublineage that may substantially broaden the T cell repertoire at all immunologically relevant sites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1277-1294
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Experimental Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1989
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology

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