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Shock. 2003 Feb;19(2):144-9.

Natural killer cells participate in bacterial clearance during septic peritonitis through interactions with macrophages.

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  • 1Veterans Administration Medical Center and the Department of Surgery, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky 40292, USA.


Natural killer (NK) cells have a well-established role in host defense against viral infections and malignancies. However, their function in bacterial infection and sepsis is poorly defined. We hypothesized that NK cells, as a major producer of interferon-gamma during sepsis, would be important in host defense against bacterial infections. Cecal ligation and puncture (CLP) was performed on Swiss Webster mice depleted of NK cells by pretreatment with anti-asialo GM1 and control mice given immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody. NK cell-depleted mice had significantly higher anaerobic bacterial counts in the liver and peritoneal lavage fluid, as well as higher aerobic counts in the liver and blood 4 h after CLP. Macrophage phagocytosis, nitric oxide production, and interleukin (IL)-6 levels at 4 h were also decreased in mice depleted of NK cells compared with controls. Greater neutrophil influx into the peritoneum, indicated by higher myeloperoxidase levels, was also seen in NK cell-depleted mice. At 8 and 18 h after CLP, bacterial counts were similar between groups, and overall survival rates were not significantly different. Peritoneal IL-12 levels significantly increased by 18 h in normal mice, but not in NK cell-depleted animals. Our data suggest that NK cells participate in the early local and systemic eradication of bacteria and regulation of IL-12 during polymicrobial sepsis. These effects are likely due to their interactions with macrophages.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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