Analysis of global gene expression in immune cells has provided unique insights into immune system function and response to infection. Recently, we applied microarray and serial analysis of gene expression (SAGE) techniques to the study of γδ T-cell function in humans and cattle. The intent of this review is to summarize the knowledge gained since our original comprehensive studies of bovine γδ T-cell subsets. More recently, we have characterized the effects of mucosal infection or treatment with microbial products or mitogens on gene expression patterns in sorted γδ and αβ T-cells. These studies provided new insights into the function of bovine γδ T-cells and led to a model in which response to pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) induces ‘priming’ of γδ T-cells, resulting in more robust responses to downstream cytokine and/or antigen signals. PAMP primed γδ T-cells are defined by up-regulation of a select number of cytokines, including MIP1α and MIP1β, and by antigens such as surface IL2 receptor α (IL-2Rα) and CD69, in the absence of a prototypic marker for an activated γδ T-cell, IFN-γ. Furthermore, PAMP primed γδ T-cells are more capable of proliferation in response to IL-2 or IL-15 in the absence of antigen. PAMPs such as endotoxin, peptidoglycan and β-glucan are effective γδ T-cell priming agents, but the most potent antigen-independent priming agonists defined to date are condensed oligomeric tannins produced by some plants.