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J Clin Invest. 2010 Jun;120(6):1873-84. doi: 10.1172/JCI40451. Epub 2010 May 17.

Fatty acid amide hydrolase shapes NKT cell responses by influencing the serum transport of lipid antigen in mice.

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Department of Immunology, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


The potent regulatory properties of NKT cells render this subset of lipid-specific T cells a promising target for immunotherapeutic interventions. The marine sponge glycolipid alpha-galactosylceramide (alphaGalCer) is the proto-typic NKT cell agonist, which elicits this function when bound to CD1d. However, our understanding of the in vivo properties of NKT cell agonists and the host factors that control their bioactivity remains very limited. In this report, we isolated the enzyme fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) from mouse serum as an alphaGalCer-binding protein that modulates the induction of key effector functions of NKT cells in vivo. FAAH bound alphaGalCer in vivo and in vitro and was required for the efficient targeting of lipid antigens for CD1d presentation. Immunization of Faah-deficient mice with alphaGalCer resulted in a reduced systemic cytokine production, but enhanced expansion of splenic NKT cells. This distinct NKT response conferred a drastically increased adjuvant effect and strongly promoted protective CTL responses. Thus, our findings identify not only the presence of FAAH in normal mouse serum, but also its critical role in the tuning of immune responses to lipid antigens by orchestrating their transport and targeting for NKT cell activation. Our results suggest that the serum transport of lipid antigens directly shapes the quality of NKT cell responses, which could potentially be modulated in support of novel vaccination strategies.

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