Tumor-derived and bacterial phosphoantigens are recognized by unconventional lymphocytes that express a Vγ9Vδ2 T cell receptor (Vδ2 T cells) and mediate host protection against microbial infections and malignancies. Vδ2 T cells are absent in rodents but readily populate the human intestine, where their function is largely unknown. Here, we assessed Vδ2 T cell phenotype and function by flow cytometry in blood and intestinal tissue from Crohn’s disease patients (CD patients) and healthy controls. Blood from CD patients included an increased percentage of gut-tropic integrin β7–expressing Vδ2 T cells, while “Th1-committed” CD27-expressing Vδ2 T cells were selectively depleted. A corresponding population of CD27+ Vδ2 T cells was present in mucosal biopsies from CD patients and produced elevated levels of TNFα compared with controls. In colonic mucosa from CD patients, Vδ2 T cell production of TNFα was reduced by pharmacological blockade of retinoic acid receptor-α (RARα) signaling, indicating that dietary vitamin metabolites can influence Vδ2 T cell function in inflamed intestine. Vδ2 T cells were ablated in blood and tissue from CD patients receiving azathioprine (AZA) therapy, and posttreatment Vδ2 T cell recovery correlated with time since drug withdrawal and inversely correlated with patient age. These results indicate that human Vδ2 T cells exert proinflammatory effects in CD that are modified by dietary vitamin metabolites and ablated by AZA therapy, which may help resolve intestinal inflammation but could increase malignancy risk by impairing systemic tumor surveillance.


Neil E. McCarthy, Charlotte R. Hedin, Theodore J. Sanders, Protima Amon, Inva Hoti, Ibrahim Ayada, Vidya Baji, Edward M. Giles, Martha Wildemann, Zora Bashir, Kevin Whelan, Ian Sanderson, James O. Lindsay, Andrew J. Stagg


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