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J Immunol. 2003 Jun 15;170(12):5993-8.

Acquisition of viral receptor by NK cells through immunological synapse.

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Département Oncogénèse and Signalisation dans les Cellules Hématopoiétiques, Unité 563 de l'Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, BP3028 Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Purpan, Toulouse, France.


Occasional EBV infection of human NK cells may lead to malignant diseases such as naso-pharyngeal NK lymphoma although NK cells do not express CD21, the primary receptor for EBV. Here we show that during early EBV infection in patients, NK cells attacked EBV-infected autologous B cells. In vitro, NK cells activated by conjugation to CD21(+) B-EBV cell targets transiently acquired a weak CD21(+) phenotype by synaptic transfer of few receptor molecules onto their own membrane. In the presence of viral particles, these ectopic receptors allowed EBV binding to the novel NK cell host. Hence, trans-synaptic acquisition of viral receptor from target cells might constitute an unsuspected mode of infection for otherwise unreachable lymphoid hosts.

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