Mucosal-associated invariant T cells or MAIT cells are an abundant cell type in humans and especially so in the liver. MAIT cells are a subset of T lymphocytes that sit at a bridge between innate and adaptive immunity, so-called innate-like or "unconventional" T cells. The specificity of their antigen receptor (T cell receptor or TCR) is for the conserved major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-related molecule MR1, which presents a modified bacterial metabolite from the vitamin B2 biosynthesis pathway - this allows them to respond in the presence of many bacteria or yeast. MAIT cells also possess an array of cytokine receptors, which allows triggering independently of the TCR. The combination of such signals drives their functionality - this means they can respond to a range of stimuli and likely play a role not only in infection or inflammation, but also under homeostatic conditions.In this review, we will look at the question of what MAIT cells are doing in the normal liver and how they behave in the setting of disease. These questions are of relevance because MAIT cells are such a distinctive cell type enriched in the liver under normal conditions, and their modulation could be of therapeutic benefit. The recent discovery that they appear to be involved in liver fibrosis is particularly of interest in this context.
Seminars in immunopathology
Peter Medawar Building for Pathogen Research, Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, South Parks Rd, Oxford, OX1 3SY, UK.