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J Immunol. 2003 Aug 15;171(4):1775-9.

NKT cells from normal and tumor-bearing human livers are phenotypically and functionally distinct from murine NKT cells.

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Education and Research Center and. Liver Unit, St. Vincent's University Hospital, Dublin, Ireland.

Erratum in

  • J Immunol. 2003 Nov 15;171(10):5631. Mason Lucy Golden [corrected to Golden-Mason Lucy].


A major group of murine NK T (NKT) cells express an invariant Valpha14Jalpha18 TCR alpha-chain specific for glycolipid Ags presented by CD1d. Murine Valpha14Jalpha18(+) account for 30-50% of hepatic T cells and have potent antitumor activities. We have enumerated and characterized their human counterparts, Valpha24Vbeta11(+) NKT cells, freshly isolated from histologically normal and tumor-bearing livers. In contrast to mice, human NKT cells are found in small numbers in healthy liver (0.5% of CD3(+) cells) and blood (0.02%). In contrast to those in blood, most hepatic Valpha24(+) NKT cells express the Vbeta11 chain. They include CD4(+), CD8(+), and CD4(-)CD8(-) cells, and many express the NK cell markers CD56, CD161, and/or CD69. Importantly, human hepatic Valpha24(+) T cells are potent producers of IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha, but not IL-2 or IL-4, when stimulated pharmacologically or with the NKT cell ligand, alpha-galactosylceramide. Valpha24(+)Vbeta11(+) cell numbers are reduced in tumor-bearing compared with healthy liver (0.1 vs 0.5%; p < 0.04). However, hepatic cells from cancer patients and healthy donors release similar amounts of IFN-gamma in response to alpha-galactosylceramide. These data indicate that hepatic NKT cell repertoires are phenotypically and functionally distinct in humans and mice. Depletions of hepatic NKT cell subpopulations may underlie the susceptibility to metastatic liver disease.

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