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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Jun 15;107(24):10961-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1005641107. Epub 2010 Jun 1.

Expansion of human NK-22 cells with IL-7, IL-2, and IL-1beta reveals intrinsic functional plasticity.

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  • 1Department of Pathology and Immunology, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, MO 63110, USA.


Natural killer-22 (NK-22) cells are a human NK cell subset situated in mucosal-associated lymphoid tissues that specialize in IL-22 secretion in response to IL-23. Here we investigated the cytokine requirements for NK-22 cell expansion. IL-7 maintained the survival of NK-22 cells and IL-22 production in response to IL-23 but was insufficient to induce robust expansion. Proliferation of NK-22 cells was increased markedly by adding either IL-1beta or IL-2 to IL-7 and was even stronger in the presence of IL-1beta plus IL-2. In contrast to IL-7, continuous culture in IL-1beta and IL-2 modified NK-22 cytokine profiles. IL-1beta promoted constitutive IL-22 secretion rather than acute IL-22 production in response to IL-23 and induced IL-17 in some cells. IL-2 reduced secretion of IL-22 and IL-17, increasing production of IFN-gamma and leukemia inhibitory factor. Functional deviation toward IFN-gamma production also was induced by continuous culture in IL-23. These results demonstrate the functional plasticity of NK-22 cells, which may allow flexible responses to different pathogens. Finally, we found that NK-22 cells released the B-cell survival factor, B-cell activating factor belonging to the TNF family (BAFF), suggesting a potential role of NK-22 cells in promoting B-cell-mediated mucosal immunity.

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