A class of γδ T cell receptors recognize the underside of the antigen-presenting molecule MR1

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Science  20 Dec 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6472, pp. 1522-1527
DOI: 10.1126/science.aav3900

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A different way for γδ T cells to bind

The ligands bound by γδ T cell receptors (TCRs) are less well characterized than those of their αβ TCR cousins, which are antigens presented by major histocompatibility complex (MHC) and related proteins. Le Nours et al. identified a phenotypically diverse γδ T cell subset in human tissues that reacts to MHC-related protein 1 (MR1), which presents vitamin B derivatives. A crystal structure of a γδ TCR–MR1–antigen complex revealed that some of these TCRs can bind underneath the MR1 antigen-binding cleft instead of recognizing the presented antigen. This work thus uncovers an additional ligand for γδ T cells and reconceptualizes the nature of T cell antigen recognition.

Science, this issue p. 1522


T cell receptors (TCRs) recognize antigens presented by major histocompatibility complex (MHC) and MHC class I–like molecules. We describe a diverse population of human γδ T cells isolated from peripheral blood and tissues that exhibit autoreactivity to the monomorphic MHC-related protein 1 (MR1). The crystal structure of a γδTCR–MR1–antigen complex starkly contrasts with all other TCR–MHC and TCR–MHC-I-like complex structures. Namely, the γδTCR binds underneath the MR1 antigen-binding cleft, where contacts are dominated by the MR1 α3 domain. A similar pattern of reactivity was observed for diverse MR1-restricted γδTCRs from multiple individuals. Accordingly, we simultaneously report MR1 as a ligand for human γδ T cells and redefine the parameters for TCR recognition.

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