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Infect Immun. 1991 Apr;59(4):1489-99.

Responses of murine natural killer cells to binding of the fungal target Cryptococcus neoformans.

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University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City 73190.


Natural killer (NK) cells bind to and inhibit the growth of the fungal target Cryptococcus neoformans. Since C. neoformans is structurally and chemically distinct from the standard tumor cell target used in the model of NK cell-mediated cytotoxicity, this study was designed to investigate the NK cell response after binding to cryptococci. Transmission electron micrographs and three-dimensional reconstructions of NK cell-cryptococci conjugates demonstrated focusing of the NK cell centrioles and Golgi apparatus toward the cryptococcal attachment site. NK cell cytoskeletal changes after cryptococcal binding were confirmed by immunofluorescence studies in which NK cells were allowed to bind to cryptococci in Mg2(+)-containing, Ca2(+)-free medium. One hour after the addition of Ca2+ to the preformed conjugates, the bound NK cells demonstrated a significant increase in the percentage of microtubule organizing centers focused toward the cryptococcal binding site. Colchicine, a drug that inhibits microtubule assembly, did not affect NK cell-cryptococci binding but abrogated NK cell-mediated cryptococcal growth inhibition, indicating that microtubule assembly, an important prerequisite for the secretory process, is not required for NK cell-cryptococci binding but is essential for inhibition of cryptococcal growth. In addition, the Ca2+ channel-blocking reagents, lidocaine and verapamil, did not affect NK cell-cryptococci binding but blocked the NK cell-mediated anticryptococcal activity, suggesting that a Ca2+ flux is essential for inhibition of cryptococcal growth. Considered together, these data indicate that NK cells respond to binding of a target cell that has a capsule and cell wall, in addition to a cell membrane, in a manner similar to that seen following binding to target cells that are surrounded by only a cell membrane; however, the response of the NK cells to the binding of C. neoformans is slower and possibly less efficient than the response after tumor cell binding.

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