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Immunol Rev. 2015 Sep;267(1):197-213. doi: 10.1111/imr.12325.

Newtonian cell interactions shape natural killer cell education.

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The KG Jebsen Center for Cancer Immunotherapy, Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.
Department of Cancer Immunology, Institute for Cancer Research, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway.
Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
Science for Life Laboratory, Department of Applied Physics, KTH-Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden.
Center for Infectious Medicine, Department of Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.


Newton's third law of motion states that for every action on a physical object there is an equal and opposite reaction. The dynamic change in functional potential of natural killer (NK) cells during education bears many features of such classical mechanics. Cumulative physical interactions between cells, under a constant influence of homeostatic drivers of differentiation, lead to a reactive spectrum that ultimately shapes the functionality of each NK cell. Inhibitory signaling from an array of self-specific receptors appear not only to suppress self-reactivity but also aid in the persistence of effector functions over time, thereby allowing the cell to gradually build up a functional potential. Conversely, the frequent non-cytolytic interactions between normal cells in the absence of such inhibitory signaling result in continuous stimulation of the cells and attenuation of effector function. Although an innate cell, the degree to which the fate of the NK cell is predetermined versus its ability to adapt to its own environment can be revealed through a Newtonian view of NK cell education, one which is both chronological and dynamic. As such, the development of NK cell functional diversity is the product of qualitatively different physical interactions with host cells, rather than simply the sum of their signals or an imprint based on intrinsically different transcriptional programs.


cell surface molecules; cytotoxicity; differentiation; major histocompatibility complex; natural killer cells; repertoire development

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