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Nat Rev Immunol. 2011 Aug 26;11(10):645-57. doi: 10.1038/nri3044.

NK cell development, homeostasis and function: parallels with CD8⁺ T cells.

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Immunology Program, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York 10065, USA.


Natural killer (NK) cells survey host tissues for signs of infection, transformation or stress and, true to their name, kill target cells that have become useless or are detrimental to the host. For decades, NK cells have been classified as a component of the innate immune system. However, accumulating evidence in mice and humans suggests that, like the B and T cells of the adaptive immune system, NK cells are educated during development, possess antigen-specific receptors, undergo clonal expansion during infection and generate long-lived memory cells. In this Review, we highlight the many stages that an NK cell progresses through during its remarkable lifetime, discussing similarities and differences with its close relative, the cytotoxic CD8(+) T cell.

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