Antigen Specificity of Type I NKT Cells Is Governed by TCR β-Chain Diversity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • Garth Cameron
  • Daniel G Pellicci
  • Adam P Uldrich
  • Spencer J Williams
  • Nicole L La Gruta
  • Jamie Rossjohn
  • Dale I Godfrey

Colleges, School and Institutes


NKT cells recognize lipid-based Ags presented by CD1d. Type I NKT cells are often referred to as invariant owing to their mostly invariant TCR α-chain usage (Vα14-Jα18 in mice, Vα24-Jα18 in humans). However, these cells have diverse TCR β-chains, including Vβ8, Vβ7, and Vβ2 in mice and Vβ11 in humans, joined to a range of TCR Dβ and Jβ genes. In this study, we demonstrate that TCR β-chain composition can dramatically influence lipid Ag recognition in an Ag-dependent manner. Namely, the glycolipids α-glucosylceramide and isoglobotrihexosylceramide were preferentially recognized by Vβ7(+) NKT cells from mice, whereas the α-galactosylceramide analog OCH, with a truncated sphingosine chain, was preferentially recognized by Vβ8(+) NKT cells from mice. We show that the influence of the TCR β-chain is due to a combination of Vβ-, Jβ-, and CDR3β-encoded residues and that these TCRs can recapitulate the selective Ag reactivity in TCR-transduced cell lines. Similar observations were made with human NKT cells where different CDR3β-encoded residues determined Ag preference. These findings indicate that NKT TCR β-chain diversity results in differential and nonhierarchical Ag recognition by these cells, which implies that some Ags can preferentially activate type I NKT cell subsets.

Bibliographic note

Copyright © 2015 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.


Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Immunology
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sep 2015