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Eur J Immunol. 2001 Sep;31(9):2818-28.

Characterization of the phenotype and function of CD8(+), alpha / beta(+) NKT cells from tumor-bearing mice that show a natural killer cell activity and lyse multiple tumor targets.

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  • 1Center for Neurological Diseases, Brigham and Womens Hospital, Department of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Natural Killer (NK) T cells are a specialized T cell population that co-expresses receptors of the NK lineage with the alpha / beta TCR receptor and other T cell surface markers. Their functions, regulation and relationship to other cells in the immune system are not fully understood. This report demonstrates that tumor-bearing C57BL / 6 mice have a population of NKT cells that co-express CD8 and CD161 (NK1.1) surface markers. These cells are maintained in long-term culture with T helper 2 (Th2) cytokine interleukin-4 (IL-4), but produce large amounts of Th1 cytokine interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) following activation. NK1.1(+)CD8(+) T cells show a potent NK-like cytotoxic activity against multiple tumor targets, and lysis is independent of major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-class I or non-classical MHC-class I molecules (Qa, TL). The NK1.1(+)CD8(+) T cells express Vbeta14 chain of the TCR. These NKT cells are not CD1d restricted, and their cytotoxic activity is CD1d independent. Therefore, they represent a unique subset of T cells with an unknown restriction element which produce large quantities of IFN-gamma following expansion with IL-4. Furthermore, their cytotoxic activity is enhanced by B7 co-stimulatory molecules present on tumor cells. CD161(+) T cells that are expanded in tumor-bearing hosts may function as a part of the innate immune system with potential role(s) in tumor surveillance.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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