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J Immunol. 2005 Oct 15;175(8):5463-70.

Human NK cytotoxicity against porcine cells is triggered by NKp44 and NKG2D.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Laboratory for Transplantation Immunology, University Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.


Pig-to-human xenotransplantation has been proposed as a means to alleviate the shortage of human organs for transplantation, but cellular rejection remains a hurdle for successful xenograft survival. NK cells have been implicated in xenograft rejection and are tightly regulated by activating and inhibitory receptors recognizing ligands on potential target cells. The aim of the present study was to analyze the role of activating NK receptors including NKp30, NKp44, NKp46, and NKG2D in human xenogeneic NK cytotoxicity against porcine endothelial cells (pEC). (51)Cr release and Ab blocking assays were performed using freshly isolated, IL-2-activated polyclonal NK cell populations as well as a panel of NK clones. Freshly isolated NK cells are NKp44 negative and lysed pEC exclusively in an NKG2D-dependent fashion. In contrast, the lysis of pEC mediated by activated human NK cells depended on both NKp44 and NKG2D, since a complete protection of pEC was achieved only by simultaneous blocking of these activating NK receptors. Using a panel of NK clones, a highly significant correlation between anti-pig NK cytotoxicity and NKp44 expression levels was revealed. Other triggering receptors such as NKp30 and NKp46 were not involved in xenogeneic NK cytotoxicity. Finally, Ab-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity of pEC mediated by human NK cells in the presence of xenoreactive Ab was not affected by blocking of activating NK receptors. In conclusion, strategies aimed to inhibit interactions between NKp44 and NKG2D on human NK cells and so far unknown ligands on pEC may prevent direct NK responses against xenografts but not xenogeneic Ab-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity.

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