Emerging features of MAIT cells and other unconventional T cell populations in human viral disease and vaccination.
Hackstein C-P., Klenerman P.
MAIT cells are one representative of a group of related unconventional or pre-set T cells, and are particularly abundant in humans. While these unconventional T cell types, which also include populations of Vδ2 cells and iNKT cells, recognise quite distinct ligands, they share functional features including the ability to sense "danger" by integration of cytokine signals. Since such signals are common to many human pathologies, activation of MAIT cells in particular has been widely observed. In this review we will discuss recent trends in these data, for example the findings from patients with Covid-19 and responses to novel vaccines. Covid-19 is an example where MAIT cell activation has been correlated with disease severity by several groups, and the pathways leading to activation are being clarified, but the overall role of the cells in vivo requires further exploration. Given the potential wide functional responsiveness of these cells, which ranges from tissue repair to cytotoxicity, and likely impacts on the activity of many other cell populations, defining the role of these cells - not only as sensitive biomarkers but also as mediators - across human disease remains an important task.