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J Immunol. 2015 Aug 15;195(4):1459-69. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1500574. Epub 2015 Jul 8.

A Subset of CD8αβ+ Invariant NKT Cells in a Humanized Mouse Model.

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Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90033;
School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, United Kingdom;
Experimental Immunology Unit, Division of Immunology, Transplantation and Infectious Diseases, San Raffaele Scientific Institute, 20134 Milano, Italy;
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY 10461;
Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences, Manchester Collaborative Centre for Inflammation Research, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9NT, United Kingdom; and Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115.
Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90033;


Invariant NKT (iNKT) cells are unconventional innate-like T cells demonstrating potent antitumor function in conventional mouse models. However, the iNKT cell ligands have had limited efficacy in human antitumor clinical trials, mostly due to the profound differences in the properties and compositions of iNKT cells between the two species, including the presence of a CD8(+) subset of iNKT cells only in humans. To build reliable in vivo models for studying human iNKT cells, we recently developed the first humanized mouse model (hCD1d-KI) with human CD1d knocked in. To further humanize the mouse model, we now introduced the human invariant NKT TCRα-chain (Vα24Jα18) into the hCD1d-knockin mice. Similar to humans, this humanized mouse model developed a subset of CD8αβ(+) iNKT cells among other human-like iNKT subsets. The presence of the CD8αβ(+) iNKT cells in the thymus suggests that these cells developed in the thymus. In the periphery, these NKT cells showed a strong Th1-biased cytokine response and potent cytotoxicity for syngeneic tumor cells upon activation, as do human CD8αβ(+) iNKT cells. The low binding avidity of iNKT TCRs to the human CD1d/lipid complex and high prevalence of Vβ7 TCRβ among the CD8(+) iNKT cells strongly point to a low avidity-based developmental program for these iNKT cells, which included the suppression of Th-POK and upregulation of eomesodermin transcriptional factors. Our establishment of this extensively humanized mouse model phenotypically and functionally reflecting the human CD1d/iNKT TCR system will greatly facilitate the future design and optimization of iNKT cell-based immunotherapies.

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