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Mucosa-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells are a unique population of αβ T cells in mammals that reside preferentially in mucosal tissues and express an invariant Vα paired with limited Vβ T-cell receptor (TCR) chains. Furthermore, MAIT cell development is dependent upon the expression of the evolutionarily conserved major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class Ib molecule MR1. Using in vitro assays, recent studies have shown that mouse and human MAIT cells are activated by antigen-presenting cells (APCs) infected with diverse microbes, including numerous bacterial strains and yeasts, but not viral pathogens. However, whether MAIT cells play an important, and perhaps unique, role in controlling microbial infection has remained unclear. To probe MAIT cell function, we show here that purified polyclonal MAIT cells potently inhibit intracellular bacterial growth of Mycobacterium bovis BCG in macrophages (MΦ) in coculture assays, and this inhibitory activity was dependent upon MAIT cell selection by MR1, secretion of gamma interferon (IFN-γ), and an innate interleukin 12 (IL-12) signal from infected MΦ. Surprisingly, however, the cognate recognition of MR1 by MAIT cells on the infected MΦ was found to play only a minor role in MAIT cell effector function. We also report that MAIT cell-deficient mice had higher bacterial loads at early times after infection compared to wild-type (WT) mice, demonstrating that MAIT cells play a unique role among innate lymphocytes in protective immunity against bacterial infection.