TCR gamma delta(+) cells constitute <5% of all circulating T cells in healthy, adult Caucasians, and V(delta)1(+) cells constitute a minority of these cells. In contrast to TCR alpha beta(+) cells, their repertoire is selected extrathymically by environmental antigens. Although increased frequencies of V(delta)1(+) cells are found in several diseases, their function remains obscure. Here we show that the frequency of peripheral blood gamma delta T cells in healthy West Africans is about twice that of Caucasians, mainly due to a 5-fold increase in V(delta)1(+) cells, which is consequently the dominant subset. No age dependency of V(delta)1 frequencies was identified and the V(delta)1(+) cells in the African donors did not show preferential V(gamma) chain usage. Analysis of the CDR3 region size did not reveal any particular skewing of the V(delta)1 repertoire, although oligoclonality was more pronounced in adults compared to children. The proportions of CD8(+), CD38(+) and CD45RA(hi)CD45RO(-) cells within the V(delta)1(+) subset were higher in the African than in the European donors, without obvious differences in expression of activation markers. No significant correlations between levels of V(delta)1(+) cells and environmental antigens or immunological parameters were identified. Taken together, the evidence argues against a CDR3-restricted, antigen-driven expansion of V(delta)1(+) cells in the African study population. Our study shows that high frequencies of TCR gamma delta(+) cells with dominance of the V(delta)1(+) subset can occur at the population level in healthy people, raising questions about the physiological role of V(delta)1(+) T cells in the function and regulation of the immune system.
International Immunology, 2000, Vol 12, Issue 6, p. 797-805