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Mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells are innate-like T cells that recognize microbial metabolites through a semi-invariant T cell receptor (TCR). Major questions remain regarding the extent of human MAIT cell functional and clonal diversity. To address these, we analyzed the single-cell transcriptome and TCR repertoire of blood and liver MAIT cells and developed functional RNA-sequencing, a method to integrate function and TCR clonotype at single-cell resolution. MAIT cell clonal diversity was comparable to conventional memory T cells, with private TCR repertoires shared across matched tissues. Baseline functional diversity was low and largely related to tissue site. MAIT cells showed stimulus-specific transcriptional responses in vitro, with cells positioned along gradients of activation. Clonal identity influenced resting and activated transcriptional profiles but intriguingly was not associated with the capacity to produce IL-17. Overall, MAIT cells show phenotypic and functional diversity according to tissue localization, stimulation environment and clonotype.

Original publication




Journal article


Nature Immunology

Publication Date



Lucy Garner, University of Oxford, Nuffield Department of Medicine, Experimental Medicine Division, John Radcliffe Hospital, Headley Way, Headington, Oxford, OX3 9DU, United Kingdom


Immunology, Adaptive immunity, T cells, Innate-like T cells, MAIT cells, T cell receptor