Mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells are an abundant innate-like T cell subset in humans, enriched in mucosal tissues and the liver. MAIT cells express a semi-invariant T cell receptor (TCR) and recognize microbial-derived riboflavin metabolites presented on the MHC Class I-like molecule MR1. In addition to activation via the TCR, MAIT cells can also be activated in response to cytokines such as IL-12 and IL-18, in contrast to conventional T cells. Here we describe TCR-dependent and -independent methods for MAIT cell activation. The TCR-dependent approaches include stimulation with microbead- or plate-bound anti-CD3/anti-CD28 antibodies, and with 5-OP-RU or paraformaldehyde (PFA)-fixed E. coli in the presence of antigen-presenting cells (APCs). The latter method includes a combination of TCR- and cytokine-mediated stimulation. The TCR-independent methods include direct stimulation with the recombinant cytokines IL-12 and IL-18, and indirect stimulation with TLR-4/TLR-8 agonists or influenza A virus in the presence of APCs. Finally, we outline a protocol to analyze activated MAIT cells using flow cytometry.

Original publication




Journal article


Methods Mol Biol

Publication Date





97 - 124


5-OP-RU, Beads, CD28, CD3, Cytokines, E. coli, Innate, Interleukin-12, Interleukin-18, Invariant T cell receptor, MAIT cells, MR1, Plate-bound, Toll-like receptor, Vα7.2