Butyrophilin-like 3 Directly Binds a Human Vγ4+ T Cell Receptor Using a Modality Distinct from Clonally-Restricted Antigen

Carrie R. Willcox, Pierre Vantourout, Mahboob Salim, Iva Zlatareva, Daisy Melandri, Leonor Zanardo, Roger George, Svend Kjaer, Mark Jeeves, Fiyaz Mohammed, Adrian C. Hayday*, Benjamin E. Willcox

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Citations (Scopus)
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Butyrophilin (BTN) and butyrophilin-like (BTNL/Btnl) heteromers are major regulators of human and mouse γδ T cell subsets, but considerable contention surrounds whether they represent direct γδ T cell receptor (TCR) ligands. We demonstrate that the BTNL3 IgV domain binds directly and specifically to a human Vγ4+ TCR, “LES” with an affinity (∼15–25 μM) comparable to many αβ TCR-peptide major histocompatibility complex interactions. Mutations in germline-encoded Vγ4 CDR2 and HV4 loops, but not in somatically recombined CDR3 loops, drastically diminished binding and T cell responsiveness to BTNL3-BTNL8-expressing cells. Conversely, CDR3γ and CDR3δ loops mediated LES TCR binding to endothelial protein C receptor, a clonally restricted autoantigen, with minimal CDR1, CDR2, or HV4 contributions. Thus, the γδ TCR can employ two discrete binding modalities: a non-clonotypic, superantigen-like interaction mediating subset-specific regulation by BTNL/BTN molecules and CDR3-dependent, antibody-like interactions mediating adaptive γδ T cell biology. How these findings might broadly apply to γδ T cell regulation is also examined. Butyrophilin (BTN) and butyrophilin-like (BTNL) molecules powerfully influence selection and activation of specific γδ lymphocyte subsets, but whether they directly bind the γδ TCR has remained contentious. Willcox et al. show that BTNL3 directly binds to human Vγ4+ TCRs via a superantigen-like binding mode that is focused on germline-encoded TCR regions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)813-825.e4
Issue number5
Early online date15 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 19 Nov 2019


  • butyrophilin
  • complementarity determining region
  • gamma delta T cell
  • ligand
  • selection
  • T cell receptor


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