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Mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells represent an innate T-cell population that can recognize ligands generated by the microbial riboflavin synthesis pathway, presented via the major histocompatibility complex class I-related molecule (MR1). Streptococcus pneumoniae is a major human pathogen that is also associated with commensal carriage; thus, host control at the mucosal interface is critical. The recognition of pneumococci by MAIT cells has not been defined nor have the genomics and transcriptomics of the riboflavin operon. We observed robust recognition of pneumococci by MAIT cells, using both MR1-dependent and MR1-independent pathways. The pathway used was dependent on the antigen-presenting cell. The riboflavin operon was highly conserved across a range of 571 pneumococci from 39 countries, dating back to 1916, and different versions of the riboflavin operon were also identified in related Streptococcus species. These data indicate an important functional relationship between MAIT cells and pneumococci.

Original publication




Journal article


J Infect Dis

Publication Date





988 - 999