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Immunology. 2014 May;142(1):140-50. doi: 10.1111/imm.12239.

Differential activation of CD57-defined natural killer cell subsets during recall responses to vaccine antigens.


Natural killer (NK) cells contribute to the effector phase of vaccine-induced adaptive immune responses, secreting cytokines and releasing cytotoxic granules. The proportion of responding NK cells varies between individuals and by vaccine, suggesting that functionally discrete subsets of NK cells with different activation requirements may be involved. Here, we have used responses to individual components of the DTP vaccine [tetanus toxoid (TT), diphtheria toxoid (DT), whole cell inactivated pertussis] to characterize the NK cell subsets involved in interleukin-2-dependent recall responses. Culture with TT, DT or pertussis induced NK cell CD25 expression and interferon-γ production in previously vaccinated individuals. Responses were the most robust against whole cell pertussis, with responses to TT being particularly low. Functional analysis of discrete NK cell subsets revealed that transition from CD56bright to CD56dim correlated with increased responsiveness to CD16 cross-linking, whereas increasing CD57 expression correlated with a loss of responsiveness to cytokines. A higher frequency of CD56dim CD57− NK cells expressed CD25 and interferon-γ following stimulation with vaccine antigen compared with CD56dim CD57+ NK cells and made the largest overall contribution to this response. CD56dim CD57int NK cells represent an intermediate functional phenotype in response to vaccine-induced and receptor-mediated stimuli. These findings have implications for the ability of NK cells to contribute to the effector response after vaccination and for vaccine-induced immunity in older individuals.

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