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J Immunol. 2005 Sep 15;175(6):3762-8.

The influence of CD1d in postselection NKT cell maturation and homeostasis.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia.


After being positively selected on CD1d-expressing thymocytes, NKT cells undergo a series of developmental changes that can take place inside or outside the thymus. We asked whether CD1d continues to play a role in late-stage NKT cell development and, in particular, during the functionally significant acquisition of NK1.1 that is indicative of NKT cell maturity. We report that CD1d is indeed crucial for this step, because immature NK1.1(-) NKT cells fail to fully mature when transferred to a CD1d-deficient environment. Surprisingly, however, the lack of CD1d did not greatly affect the long-term survival of NKT cells, and they continued to express CD69 and slowly proliferate. This directly contradicts the currently held view that these phenomena are caused by autoreactivity directed against CD1d/TCR-restricted self-Ags. Our findings demonstrate an ongoing role for TCR-mediated signaling throughout NKT cell development, but the characteristic semiactivated basal state of NKT cells is controlled by CD1d-independent factors or is intrinsic to the cells themselves.

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