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Journal of Immunology


H2-M3-restricted T cells have a preactivated surface phenotype, rapidly expand, and produce cytokines upon stimulation, and, as such, are classified as innate T cells. Unlike most innate T cells, M3-restricted T cells also express CD8ab coreceptors and a diverse TCR repertoire: hallmarks of conventional MHC Ia-restricted CD8+ T cells. Although invariant NKT cells are also innate T cells, they are selected exclusively on hematopoietic cells (HC), whereas M3-restricted T cells can be selected on either hematopoietic or thymic epithelial cells. Moreover, their phenotypes differ depending on what cells mediate their selection. Although there is a clear correlation between selection on HC and development of innate phenotype, the underlying mechanism remains unclear. Signaling lymphocyte activation molecule-associated protein (SAP) is required for the development of invariant NKT cells and mediates signals from signaling lymphocyte activation molecule receptors that are exclusively expressed on HC. Based on their dual selection pathway, M3-restricted T cells present a unique model for studying the development of innate T cell phenotype. Using both polyclonal and transgenic mouse models, we demonstrate that although M3-restricted T cells are capable of developing in the absence of SAP, SAP is required for HC-mediated selection, development of preactivated phenotype, and heightened effector functions of M3-restricted T cells. These findings are significant because they directly demonstrate the need for SAP in HC-mediated acquisition of innate T cell phenotype and suggest that, due to their SAP-dependent HC-mediated selection, M3-restricted T cells develop a preactivated phenotype and an intrinsic ability to proliferate faster upon stimulation, allowing for an important role in the early response to infection. Copyright © 2012 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc. All rights reserved.

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