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Breakthrough Discovery of a New T-Cell Lineage

In a newly published paper, “The molecular assembly of the marsupial γμ T cell receptor defines a third T cell lineage,” in Science, an international team of scientists has defined a new, novel T cell. Named γμ T cells, they are found only in marsupials and monotremes. 

The team of ARC-supported researchers at Monash University, with collaborators at the University of New Mexico (US) and the US National Institutes of Health, agree γμ T cells have the potential for development as research and diagnostic tools. They could be used immunotherapeutics in humans to combat cancer and viral infections such as COVID-19.

Using the Australian Synchrotron, the scientists at Monash University obtained a detailed three-dimensional image of the opossum γμTCR architecture. They found that it was unique and distinct from αβ or γδ TCRs. Surprisingly, they found nanobodies like a single antibody-like segment called the Vμ domain. This discovery raises the possibility that γμ T cells recognize pathogens using novel mechanisms distinct from conventional T cells.

'Many in-roads have been made in understanding the immune systems of humans and mice, leading to the development of novel immunotherapeutic approaches enabling humans to combat highly pathogenic viruses. However, much less is understood about how immunity operates in other species that, in some cases, have been decimated by wildlife diseases. Ultimately our work may guide the development of novel vaccines,' says ARC Future Fellow, Dr. Jérôme Le Nours from Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute, co-lead author on the paper.



Morrissey, Kimberly A., et al. "The molecular assembly of the marsupial γμ T cell receptor defines a third T cell lineage." Science 371.6536 (2021): 1383-1388.

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