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J Leukoc Biol. 1990 Aug;48(2):163-73.

Surface characteristics, morphology, and ultrastructure of human adherent lymphokine-activated killer cells.

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Department of Pathology, University of Pittsburgh.


Human adherent lymphokine-activated killer (A-LAK) cells represent a population of highly cytotoxic, interleukin-2 (IL-2)-activated peripheral blood lymphocytes that have large granular lymphocyte (LGL) morphology and display natural killer (NK) cell-associated surface markers (CD3-CD56+). The ultrastructure of A-LAK cells also is consistent with that of highly activated NK cells. After their initial isolation, continued culture of A-LAK cells in the presence of IL-2 resulted in cyclic shifts between adherent and non-adherent phases with about 90% of the cells floating and non-adherent. All of these A-LAK cells were spheroidal with numerous villi and pseudopodia. In the adherent phase, A-LAK cells were motile, moving along the solid surface at a speed of about 1 micron per minute, and polar, with a ruffled leading edge at one end of the cell and a terminal tuft of villi at the opposite end. Transmission electron microscopy of these cells also demonstrated a high degree of internal polarity, with the nucleus at the leading edge of the cell and richly granulated cytoplasm at the terminal end. Extensive cytoskeletal structures, multivesicular bodies, and an active Golgi complex characterized these cells. A-LAK cells in the adherent phase were found to express numerous point contacts (podosomes) and larger adherence structures containing polymerized actin, which appear to be important for interactions of these cells with the substrate. Increased expression of adhesion molecules in association with surface structures mediating adherence is also responsible for effective binding of A-LAK cells to solid surfaces.

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