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Blood. 2005 Jul 15;106(2):609-16. Epub 2005 Mar 31.

NK/iDC interaction results in IL-18 secretion by DCs at the synaptic cleft followed by NK cell activation and release of the DC maturation factor HMGB1.

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Laboratory of Cell Biology, Department of Translational Oncology, National Institute for Cancer Research, Largo Rosanna Benzi, 10, 16132 Genova, Italy.


Interaction of natural killer (NK) cells with autologous immature dendritic cells (DCs) results in reciprocal activation; however, the underlying mechanisms are so far elusive. We show here that NK cells trigger immature DCs to polarize and secrete interleukin 18 (IL-18), a cytokine lacking a secretory leader sequence. This occurs through a Ca2+-dependent and tubulin-mediated recruitment of IL-18-containing secretory lysosomes toward the adhering NK cell. Lysosome exocytosis and IL-18 secretion are restricted at the synaptic cleft, thus allowing activation of the interacting NK cells without spreading of the cytokine. In turn, DC-activated NK cells secrete the proinflammatory cytokine high mobility group B1 (HMGB1), which induces DC maturation and protects DCs from lysis. Also HMGB1 is a leaderless cytokine that undergoes regulated secretion. Differently from IL-18, soluble HMGB1 is consistently detected in NK/DC supernatants. These data point to secretion of leaderless cytokines as a key event for the reciprocal activation of NK cells and DCs. DCs initiate NK cell activation by targeted delivery of IL-18, thus instructing NK cells in the absence of adaptive-type cytokines; in turn, activated NK cells release HMGB1, which promotes inflammation and induces DC maturation, thus favoring the onset of the adaptive immune response.

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