In non-eutherians, a third type of T cell
The two established T cell lineages found in jawed vertebrates use either an αβ or a γδ T cell receptor (TCR) to detect antigens. Recently, another type of TCR chain (TCRµ) was found in marsupials and monotremes. Morrissey et al. analyzed T cells from the gray short-tailed opossum and uncovered a third lineage resident in the spleen that uses a γµ TCR (see the Perspective by Criscitiello). The authors then characterized the crystal structures of two different γµ TCRs, which exhibited an architecture distinct from αβ or γδ TCRs in which a highly diverse, unpaired immunoglobulin-like variable domain was predicted to be the major antigen recognition determinant. Like camelid VHH and shark IgNAR antibodies, γµ TCRs could potentially inform future nanobody development.
αβ and γδ T cell receptors (TCRs) are highly diverse antigen receptors that define two evolutionarily conserved T cell lineages. We describe a population of γμTCRs found exclusively in non-eutherian mammals that consist of a two-domain (Vγ-Cγ) γ-chain paired to a three-domain (Vμ-Vμj-Cμ) μ-chain. γμTCRs were characterized by restricted diversity in the Vγ and Vμj domains and a highly diverse unpaired Vμ domain. Crystal structures of two distinct γμTCRs revealed the structural basis of the association of the γμTCR heterodimer. The Vμ domain shared the characteristics of a single-domain antibody within which the hypervariable CDR3μ loop suggests a major antigen recognition determinant. We define here the molecular basis underpinning the assembly of a third TCR lineage, the γμTCR.