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Blood. 2009 Jan 8;113(2):370-6. doi: 10.1182/blood-2008-06-166249. Epub 2008 Oct 2.

NKT-cell help to B lymphocytes can occur independently of cognate interaction.

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  • 1Experimental Immunology Unit, Cancer Immunotherapy and Gene Therapy Program, DIBIT, H. San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Milano, Italy.


CD4(+) T (Th)-cell help to B lymphocytes requires cognate interaction and CD40 engagement. Invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells are innate-like T lymphocytes that recognize alphagalactosylceramide (alphaGalCer) presented by CD1d, and can help B-cell responses. We asked whether alphaGalCer-activated iNKT cells help B lymphocytes through cognate interaction, or indirectly, via enhancement of Th-B-cell interaction. After immunization with protein Ags and alphaGalCer, antibody titers were assessed in wild-type or splenectomized mice, and in bone marrow radiation chimeras lacking CD1d or CD40 expression on B lymphocytes, or expressing CD1d or MHC II disjointly on antigen-presenting cells (APCs). We find that alphaGalCer-dependent enhancement of B-cell response (1) can occur when B cells do not express CD1d but express CD40; (2) requires that iNKT and Th cells interact with the same APCs that coexpress both CD1d and MHC-II; and (3) takes place without spleen. These findings demonstrate alphaGalCer-induced help for antibody responses can occur without cognate iNKT/B-cell interaction, and suggest this help entails activation of APCs by iNKT cells, which in turn activate Th cells and their helper functions for B cells. Thus, the alphaGalCer-induced help recapitulates the function of classical adjuvants that stimulate the innate immune system to support adaptive immune responses.

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