Article

A subpopulation of human peripheral blood NK cells that lacks inhibitory receptors for self-MHC is developmentally immature.

Division of Hematology, Oncology and Transplantation, University of Minnesota Cancer Center, Minneapolis 55455, USA.
Blood (Impact Factor: 9.06). 08/2007; 110(2):578-86. DOI: 10.1182/blood-2006-07-036228
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT How receptor acquisition correlates with the functional maturation of natural killer (NK) cells is poorly understood. We used quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays to compare NKG2 and killer immunoglobulin-like receptor (KIR) gene expression in NK cells from allogeneic transplant recipients and their donors. Marked differences were observed in the NK subsets of recipients who had 8-fold more CD56(bright) cells, diminished KIR expression (except 2DL4), and increased NKG2A. In normal blood not all CD56(dim) cells express KIR, and a novel subpopulation of cells committed to the NK-cell lineage was defined. These cells, which comprise 19.4% +/- 2.8% of the CD56(dim) NK population in healthy donors, express the activating NKG2D and NKG2E receptors but no KIR or NKG2A. Although the CD56(dim) NKG2A(-) KIR(-) NK cells lack "at least one" inhibitory receptor for autologous MHC class I, they are not fully responsive, but rather functionally immature cells with poor cytotoxicity and IFN-gamma production. Upon culture with IL-15 and a stromal cell line, CD56(dim) and CD56(bright) KIR(-) NK cells proliferate, express KIR, and develop cytotoxicity and cytokine-producing potential. These findings have implications for the function of NK cells reconstituting after transplantation and support a model for in vivo development in which CD56(bright) cells precede CD56(dim) cells.

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