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Immunology. 2009 Mar;126(3):423-35. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2567.2008.02910.x. Epub 2008 Sep 5.

Characterization of the recognition and functional heterogeneity exhibited by cytokine-induced killer cell subsets against acute myeloid leukaemia target cell.

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Department of Haematology, Singapore General Hospital, Singapore.


The polyclonal cytokine-induced killer (CIK) cells exhibit potent cytotoxicity against a variety of tumour cells including autologous and allogeneic acute myeloid leukaemic (AML) targets. At maturity, three lymphocyte subsets: CD3(-) CD56(+), CD3(+) CD56(-) and CD3(+) CD56(+), constitute the bulk of the CIK cell culture. The CD3(-) CD56(+) subset behaves like classical natural killer (NK) cells where cytotoxicity is potentiated by blocking the human leucocyte antigen Class I molecules in the AML targets. Both the CD3(+) CD56(+) and CD3(+) CD56(-) subsets, though known to kill autologous and allogeneic targets to a comparable degree and therefore non-major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-restricted, nevertheless require the presence of the MHC molecule on the target, which interacts with their CD3-T-cell receptor complex. Although CIK cells are often termed 'NK-like' T cells, we have demonstrated that the well-characterized NK receptors KIR, NKG2C/E, NKG2D and DNAM-1 are not involved in the process of AML recognition for the CD3(+) CD56(-) and CD3(+) CD56(+) subsets. The CD3(+) CD56(+) and CD3(+) CD56(-) subsets express a polyclonal and comparable TCRVbeta repertoire in a Gaussian distribution. The CD3(+) CD56(+) subset kills AML targets more efficiently than its CD3(+) CD56(-) counterpart because of the presence of a higher proportion of CD8(+) cells. The CD3(+) CD56(+) subset comprise more terminally differentiated late effector T cells that bear the CD27(+) CD28(-) or CD27(-) CD28(-) phenotype, with a higher granzyme A content. In comparison, the phenotype of the CD3(+) CD56(-) subset is consistent with early effector T cells that are CD27(+) CD28(+) and CD62L(+), known to be less cytotoxic but possess greater proliferative potential.

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