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Asian Pac J Allergy Immunol. 2018 Sep;36(3):175-183. doi: 10.12932/AP-030417-0067.

Korean mistletoe lectin enhances natural killer cell cytotoxicity via upregulation of perforin expression.

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School of Life Science, Handong Global University, Pohang, Gyeongbuk 79170, Republic of Korea.
Mistle Biotech Co., Ltd., Pohang Technopark, Pohang, Gyeongbuk 79083, Republic of Korea.



Natural killer (NK) cells are crucial components of the innate immune system, providing the first line of defense against pathogens. In a previous study, we demonstrated prophylactic activity of water extract of Korean mistletoe (Viscum album coloratum) on tumor metastasis. However, the leading compound from water extract of Korean mistletoe was not clearly addressed.


The purpose of this research was mainly focused on addressing the effect of Korean mistletoe lectin (KMLC) on NK cell cytotoxicity, and the ability of cytokine secretion as well as its signal transduction, mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway.


KMLC was used to test NK cell-mediated cytotoxicity in vitro and in vivo. Non-isotope cytotoxicity assay (bis-N,N,N',N'-tetraacetic acid (BATDA) release assay) was performed to test the cytotoxicity of NK cells against target tumor cells. Receptor expression was checked by flow cytometry analysis and MAPK signal molecules were analyzed by immunoblotting.


KMLC at 200 ng/mL increased the cytotoxicity of NK92 cells by 35% compared with untreated cells. KMLC-treated (at 100 ng/mL) mice splenocytes showed a 20% increase in cytotoxic activity. Also, the B chain, one of the subchains of KMLC, increases perforin expression. We demonstrated that the signal transduction controlling NK cell cytotoxicity was mediated by upregulation of the NKG2D receptor and expression of a cytotoxic effector molecule. These results suggested that KMLC possessed immunological activity, mediated by NK cell activation.

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