A major γδ T cell population in human adult blood are the Vγ9Vδ2 T cells that are activated and expanded in a TCR-dependent manner by microbe-derived and endogenously derived phosphorylated prenyl metabolites (phosphoantigens). Vγ9Vδ2 T cells are also abundant in human fetal peripheral blood, but compared with their adult counterparts they have a distinct developmental origin, are hyporesponsive toward in vitro phosphoantigen exposure, and do not possess a cytotoxic effector phenotype. In order to obtain insight into the role of Vγ9Vδ2 T cells in the human fetus, we investigated their response to in utero infection with the phosphoantigen-producing parasite Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii). Vγ9Vδ2 T cells expanded strongly when faced with congenital T. gondii infection, which was associated with differentiation toward potent cytotoxic effector cells. The Vγ9Vδ2 T cell expansion in utero resulted in a fetal footprint with public germline-encoded clonotypes in the Vγ9Vδ2 TCR repertoire 2 months after birth. Overall, our data indicate that the human fetus, from early gestation onward, possesses public Vγ9Vδ2 T cells that acquire effector functions following parasite infections.
Ling Ma, Maria Papadopoulou, Martin Taton, Francesca Genco, Arnaud Marchant, Valeria Meroni, David Vermijlen