Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences

, Volume 75, Issue 9, pp 1623–1639 | Cite as

Molecular recognition of microbial lipid-based antigens by T cells

  • Stephanie Gras
  • Ildiko Van Rhijn
  • Adam Shahine
  • Jérôme Le Nours


The immune system has evolved to protect hosts from pathogens. T cells represent a critical component of the immune system by their engagement in host defence mechanisms against microbial infections. Our knowledge of the molecular recognition by T cells of pathogen-derived peptidic antigens that are presented by the major histocompatibility complex glycoproteins is now well established. However, lipids represent an additional, distinct chemical class of molecules that when presented by the family of CD1 antigen-presenting molecules can serve as antigens, and be recognized by specialized subsets of T cells leading to antigen-specific activation. Over the past decades, numerous CD1-presented self- and bacterial lipid-based antigens have been isolated and characterized. However, our understanding at the molecular level of T cell immunity to CD1 molecules presenting microbial lipid-based antigens is still largely unexplored. Here, we review the insights and the molecular basis underpinning the recognition of microbial lipid-based antigens by T cells.


T cells CD1-mediated immunity Microbial lipids Antigens T cell receptors Molecular recognition 



Our research is supported by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) (AI 111224), Monash University (Australia), the Australian National Health and Medical Research (NHMRC), and the Australian Research Council (ARC). SG is a Monash Senior Research Fellow and J. L. N. is an ARC Future Fellow (FT160100074).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing financial interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephanie Gras
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ildiko Van Rhijn
    • 3
    • 4
  • Adam Shahine
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jérôme Le Nours
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Infection and Immunity Program and Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Biomedicine Discovery InstituteMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia
  2. 2.Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Advanced Molecular ImagingMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia
  3. 3.Division of Rheumatology, Immunology and AllergyBrigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  4. 4.Department of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, Faculty of Veterinary MedicineUniversity UtrechtUtrechtThe Netherlands

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