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MAIT cells are abundant, highly evolutionarily conserved innate-like lymphocytes expressing a semi-invariant T cell receptor (TCR), which recognizes microbially derived small intermediate molecules from the riboflavin biosynthetic pathway. However, in addition to their TCR-mediated functions they can also be activated in a TCR-independent manner via cytokines including IL-12, -15, -18, and type I interferon. Emerging data suggest that they are expanded and activated by a range of viral infections, and significantly that they can contribute to a protective anti-viral response. Here we describe methods used to investigate these anti-viral functions in vivo in murine models. To overcome the technical challenge that MAIT cells are rare in specific pathogen-free laboratory mice, we describe how pulmonary MAIT cells can be expanded using intranasal bacterial infection or a combination of synthetic MAIT cell antigen and TLR agonists. We also describe protocols for adoptive transfer of MAIT cells, methods for lung homogenization for plaque assays, and surface and intracellular cytokine staining to determine MAIT cell activation.

Original publication




Journal article


Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.)

Publication Date





261 - 281


Respiratory Medicine Unit, Nuffield Department of Medicine Experimental Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK.