Fetal public Vγ9Vδ2 T cells expand and gain potent cytotoxic functions early after birth.

Research Highlight

Immune cells gain potency soon after birth

© Elena Popova/Moment/Getty Images

Immune cells that form in the developing fetus expand and mature rapidly after birth, providing a first line of defence against infections. The findings challenge the conventional wisdom that early-life immune responses are fairly weak and point to microbe exposure shaping the immune repertoire of newborns.

A team from the University of Cape Town and elsewhere studied a group of immune cells known as gamma delta T cells that can recognize a broad range of foreign substances.

They found that, within 10 weeks of birth, these T cells from healthy infants were already expanding and differentiating into potent immune attack-dogs, with similar functions to those of immune cells from adults.

Vaccination with the Bacillus Calmette–Guérin jab for tuberculosis — a potent stimulator of gamma delta T cells — did not alter the T-cell response observed in newborns, suggesting that environmental cues are the main drivers of immune cell adaptation in early life.

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References

  1. PNAS 117, 18638–18648 (2020). doi: 10.1073/pnas.1922595117
Institutions Authors Share
University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa
6.000000
0.50
UCT South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (SATVI), South Africa
3.000000
0.25
Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Belgium
3.000000
0.25