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Blood. 2007 Oct 1;110(7):2696-703. Epub 2007 Jul 13.

Notch signaling induces cytoplasmic CD3 epsilon expression in human differentiating NK cells.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Chemistry, Microbiology, and Immunology, Ghent University Hospital, Ghent, Belgium.


It has been proposed that heterogeneity in natural killer (NK)-cell phenotype and function can be achieved through distinct thymic and bone marrow pathways of NK-cell development. Here, we show a link between Notch signaling and the generation of intracellular CD3epsilon (cyCD3)-expressing NK cells, a cell population that can be detected in vivo. Differentiation of human CD34(+) cord blood progenitors in IL-15-supplemented fetal thymus organ culture or OP9-Delta-like 1 (DL1) coculture resulted in a high percentage of cyCD3(+) NK cells that was blocked by the gamma-secretase inhibitor DAPT. The requirement for Notch signaling to generate cyCD3(+) NK cells was further illustrated by transduction of CD34(+) cord blood (CB) cells with either the active intracellular part of Notch or the dominant-negative mutant of mastermind-like protein 1 that resulted in the generation of NK cells with respectively high or low frequencies of cyCD3. Human thymic CD34(+) progenitor cells displayed the potential to generate cyCD3(+) NK cells, even in the absence of Notch/DL1 signaling. Peripheral blood NK cells were unable to induce cyCD3 expression after DL1 exposure, indicating that Notch-dependent cyCD3 expression can only be achieved during the early phase of NK-cell differentiation.

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