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J Virol. 2013 Jul;87(13):7717-25. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01096-13. Epub 2013 May 1.

Human cytomegalovirus-induced NKG2C(hi) CD57(hi) natural killer cells are effectors dependent on humoral antiviral immunity.

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  • 1Institute of Virology, University Medical Center Ulm, Ulm, Germany.


Recent studies indicate that expansion of NKG2C-positive natural killer (NK) cells is associated with human cytomegalovirus (HCMV); however, their activity in response to HCMV-infected cells remains unclear. We show that NKG2C(hi) CD57(hi) NK cells gated on CD3(neg) CD56(dim) cells can be phenotypically identified as HCMV-induced NK cells that can be activated by HCMV-infected cells. Using HCMV-infected autologous macrophages as targets, we were able to show that these NKG2C(hi) CD57(hi) NK cells are highly responsive to HCMV-infected macrophages only in the presence of HCMV-specific antibodies, whereas they are functionally poor effectors of natural cytotoxicity. We further demonstrate that NKG2C(hi) CD57(hi) NK cells are intrinsically responsive to signaling through CD16 cross-linking. Our findings show that the activity of pathogen-induced innate immune cells can be enhanced by adaptive humoral immunity. Understanding the activity of NKG2C(hi) CD57(hi) NK cells against HCMV-infected cells will be of relevance for the further development of adoptive immunotherapy.

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