Skin-Deep Selection

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Science  25 Apr 2008:
Vol. 320, Issue 5875, pp. 427
DOI: 10.1126/science.320.5875.427a

T cells come in two flavors—gamma delta (γδ) and alpha beta (αβ)—that are distinct in function and dispersed differently through the body, with γδ cells defined by a regional distribution of subsets at sites such as mucosa and skin. Boyden et al. have identified a gene cluster in mice that influences the development, and likely the function, of γδ T cells in the skin. They linked deficiency of a specific subset of epidermal γδ T cells in a mouse strain to a mutation in a gene named Skint1 (selection and upkeep of intraepithelial T cells) on chromosome 4. Skint1 was characterized as a cell surface member of the immunoglobulin supergene family, with two extracellular domains, three transmembrane domains, and a short cytoplasmic tail. The presence of other members of the Skint family and the variation in expression between haplotypes point to the rapid evolution of the Skint family in mice, although functional orthologs appear to have been lost, possibly more than once, during mammalian evolution. Further work will be needed to establish the contribution of Skint1 and other members of this family to the immune function of γδ T cells. — SJS

Nat. Genet. 40, 10.1038/ng.108 (2008).

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