NKT cells in mucosal immunity
The gastrointestinal tract allows the residence of an almost enumerable number of bacteria. To maintain homeostasis, the mucosal immune system must remain tolerant to the commensal microbiota and eradicate pathogenic bacteria. Aberrant interactions between the mucosal immune cells and the microbiota have been implicated in the pathogenesis of inflammatory disorders, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In this review, we discuss the role of natural killer T cells (NKT cells) in intestinal immunology. NKT cells are a subset of non-conventional T cells recognizing endogenous and/or exogenous glycolipid antigens when presented by the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I-like antigen-presenting molecules CD1d and MR1. Upon T-cell receptor (TCR) engagement, NKT cells can rapidly produce various cytokines that have important roles in mucosal immunity. Our understanding of NKT-cell-mediated pathways including the identification of specific antigens is expanding. This knowledge will facilitate the development of NKT cell-based interventions and immune therapies for human intestinal diseases.