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Mol Ther. 2010 Jul;18(7):1379-88. doi: 10.1038/mt.2010.75. Epub 2010 May 4.

FimH can directly activate human and murine natural killer cells via TLR4.

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Centre for Gene Therapeutics, Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.


Although the importance of natural killer (NK) cells in innate immune responses against tumors or viral infections are well documented, their ability to directly recognize pathogens is less well defined. We have recently reported FimH, a bacterial fimbrial protein, as a novel Toll-like receptor (TLR)4 ligand that potently induces antiviral responses. Here, we investigated whether FimH either directly or indirectly can activate human and murine NK cells. We demonstrate that FimH potently activates both human and murine NK cells in vitro to induce cytokines [interferon (IFN)-gamma and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha] and cytotoxicity. Importantly, NK cells directly recognize FimH-expressing pathogens as FimH(+), but not FimH(-), bacteria were able to activate human NK cells. FimH activation of NK cells required TLR4 and MyD88 signaling, as NK cells from both TLR4(-/-) and MyD88(-/-) mice as well as human NK-92 cells, which lack TLR4, were all unresponsive to FimH. In addition, TLR4 neutralization significantly abrogated the response of human NK cells to FimH. Activation of purified NK cells by FimH was independent of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or other bacterial contaminations. These data demonstrate for the first time that highly purified NK cells directly recognize and respond to FimH via TLR4-MyD88 pathways to aid innate protection against cancer or microbial infections.

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