Loss of oral barrier homeostasis leads to the development of periodontitis, the most common chronic inflammatory condition of mankind. Therefore, it is important to better understand the immune mediators acting at this unique barrier to safeguard tissue integrity. In a recent study, a team led by researchers from the University of Manchester identify a vital role for γδ T cells in constraining pathological inflammation at the oral barrier, as the absence of γδ T cells resulted in enhanced pathology during periodontitis. They show that oral barrier γδ T cells produce the reparative cytokine Amphiregulin, administration of which rescued the elevated oral pathology of tcrδ−/− mice. Collectively, they identify a pathway controlling oral immunity mediated by barrier-resident γδ T cells, highlighting that these cells are crucial guards of oral barrier immune homeostasis.

γδ T cells are enriched at barrier sites such as the gut, skin, and lung, where their roles in maintaining barrier integrity are well established. However, how these cells contribute to homeostasis at the gingiva, a key oral barrier and site of the common chronic inflammatory disease periodontitis, has not been explored. In this study, researchers demonstrate that the gingiva is policed by γδ T cells with a T cell receptor (TCR) repertoire that diversifies during development. Gingival γδ T cells accumulated rapidly after birth in response to barrier damage, and strikingly, their absence resulted in enhanced pathology in murine models of the oral inflammatory disease periodontitis. Alterations in bacterial communities could not account for the increased disease severity seen in γδ T cell-deficient mice. Instead, gingival γδ T cells produced the wound healing associated cytokine amphiregulin, administration of which rescued the elevated oral pathology of tcrδ−/− mice. Collectively, these results identify γδ T cells as critical constituents of the immuno-surveillance network that safeguard gingival tissue homeostasis.


S Krishnan, IE Prise, K Wemyss, J Konkel, LP Schenck et al. (2018) Amphiregulin-producing γδ T cells are vital for safeguarding oral barrier immune homeostasis PNASs doi: 10.1073/pnas.1802320115 [article]

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