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Cell Immunol. 2006 Jun;241(2):102-12. Epub 2006 Oct 17.

The direct effects of Toll-like receptor ligands on human NK cell cytokine production and cytotoxicity.

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Centre for Gene Therapeutics, Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, McMaster University Health Sciences Centre, Hamilton, Ont., Canada L8N 3Z5.


Toll-like receptor (TLR) ligands are potent inducers of the innate immune system, of which NK and NKT cells play an important role. We examined the direct activation of highly purified human NK and/or NKT cells with known TLR ligands. NK/NKT cells were positive for all known TLR mRNA (TLR1-10). Ligands for TLR2-5 induced production of significant amounts of IFN-gamma by purified NK cells. However, a TLR9 ligand failed to induce significant levels of the cytokine. NK cells were depleted from PBMCs to confirm that they were the main source of IFN-gamma following treatment with TLR ligands, which resulted in a significant decrease in cytokines. The direct effects of TLR ligands on NK cytotoxicity were determined using 51Cr-labeled K562 target cells. Ligands for TLR2-5 were potent inducers of NK cell cytotoxicity, a TLR9 ligand was not. Our results suggest that TLR ligands can directly stimulate and enhance NK cell cytokine production and induce cytotoxic activities.

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