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Curr Opin Immunol. 2007 Jun;19(3):365-72. Epub 2007 Apr 17.

Natural killer cells: from CD3(-)NKp46(+) to post-genomics meta-analyses.

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Centre d'Immunologie de Marseille-Luminy, Université de la Mediterranée, Case 906, 13288 Marseille cedex 9, France.


The original definition of NK cells was based on their 'natural' cytolytic response against tumor cells and virus-infected cells in the absence of specific immunization. However, the term 'natural killer' reflects neither the education/maturation requirements before NK cells can kill nor the entirety of their biological functions. In light of new functional assays, genetic models and genomics analysis, we propose a more accurate definition of NK cells. This definition includes the phenotypical identification of NK cells as CD3(-)NKp46(+) cells across mammalian species. In general, this attempt to redefine NK cells also highlights the need to update the operational definition of cell types in the post-genomic area.

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