Frontiers in Bioscience-Landmark (FBL) is published by IMR Press from Volume 26 Issue 5 (2021). Previous articles were published by another publisher on a subscription basis, and they are hosted by IMR Press on imrpress.com as a courtesy and upon agreement with Frontiers in Bioscience.
Although innate T lymphocytes such as gamma delta T cells have been extensively studied, their biological role has remained an enigma to researchers for many years. However, recent advances have begun to explain their complex role in the immune system. Gamma delta T cells are often the major T cell population in epithelial tissues such as the skin, gut, and lung where they have been implicated in maintaining tissue integrity, defending against pathogens, and regulating inflammation. The gamma delta T cells that reside in the skin are a prototypical intra-epithelial lymphocyte (IEL) population. These skin gamma delta T cell receptor (TCR)-expressing cells are named dendritic epidermal T cells (DETC) for their unique dendritic morphology. Using their gamma delta TCR, DETC recognize an unknown ligand expressed by stressed or damaged keratinocytes. Activated DETC exhibit effector functions such as cytokine production, cytolysis, and proliferation in vitro. Recent findings have shown that upon activation by damaged keratinocytes, DETC produce a key keratinocyte growth factor for wound repair called fibroblast growth factor 7 (FGF-7). FGF-7 is produced in vitro and in vivo, suggesting that DETC might play an important role in the biological function of wound repair. Indeed a delay in wound closure and a decrease in the proliferation of keratinocytes at the wound site have been observed in mice lacking gamma delta T cells. In addition to effector functions attributed to DETC, it has also been suggested that gamma delta T cells such as DETC have regulatory roles such as initiating or inhibiting inflammation. This is supported by the findings that DETC produce chemokines and cytokines. Control of the inflammatory response in the epithelium may provide another mechanism to reestablish homeostasis after a biological insult such as wound infliction. Understanding the function of DETC may be useful in the development of future therapies for chronic wounds and the maintenance of skin homeostasis.