Mast cells (MCs) are immune sentinels but whether they also function as antigen-presenting cells (APCs) remains elusive. Using mouse models of MC-deficiency, we report MC-dependent recruitment and activation of multiple T cell subsets to the skin and draining lymph nodes (LNs) during dengue virus (DENV) infection. Newly-recruited and locally-proliferating γδT cells were the first responding T cell subset to MC-driven inflammation and their production of IFN-γ was MC-dependent. MC-γδ T cell conjugates were observed consistently in infected peripheral tissues, suggesting a new role for MCs as non-conventional APCs for γδT cells. MC-dependent γδT cell activation and proliferation during DENV infection required TCR signaling and the non-conventional antigen presentation molecule EPCR on MCs. γδT cells, not previously implicated in DENV host defense, killed infected target dendritic cells and contributed to clearance of DENV in vivo. We believe immune synapse formation between MCs and γδT cells is a novel mechanism to induce specific and protective immunity at sites of viral infection.
Chinmay Kumar Mantri, Ashley L. St. John