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Scand J Immunol. 2012 Jan;75(1):16-26. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3083.2011.02607.x.

Role of natural killer T cells in the mouse colitis-associated colon cancer model.

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Department of Medicine and Molecular Science, Hiroshima University, Hiroshima, Japan.


Invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells are considered innate-like lymphocytes, and regulate the immunity against inflammation and tumorigenesis. However, the impact of iNKT cells in inflammation-associated tumorigenesis remains unclear. In this study, we examined the physiological role of iNKT cells in a mouse colitis-associated colorectal cancer model. C57BL/6 (B6) and Jα18 NKT cell-deficient KO (KO) mice were used. Colitis-associated colorectal cancer was induced by azoxymethane (AOM) and dextran sodium sulfate (DSS). The resulting inflammation and tumours were examined. The surface markers of mononuclear cells from the liver and the colon were assessed by FACS. The levels of IL-13 from the colon were measured by ELISA. α-galactosylceramide (GC), or its close analog OCH, was administered intraperitoneally on the first day of each cycle of DSS-administration. In the AOM/DSS model, hepatic iNKT cells were significantly decreased. In KO mice there were significantly greater numbers of colon tumours and more severe inflammation than in B6 mice. FACS analysis revealed that the population of NK1.1 (+) T cells (non-invariant NKT cells) in the colon was increased when compared to B6 mice. The secretion of IL-13 was increased in the colon of KO mice after AOM/DSS. The number of colon tumours was significantly decreased in the GC-treated group compared to the control group. GC-treatment significantly inhibited IL-13 secretion from the colonic mononuclear cells and the number of colonic NK1.1 (+) T cells was significantly decreased. These results suggest that iNKT cells may play a critical role in the prevention of tumour progression and inflammation in the AOM/DSS model.

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