Author(s): Baev DV, Peng XH, Song L, Barnhart JR, Crooks GM,
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Abstract CD1d-restricted Valpha24-invariant natural killer T cells (iNKTs) are important in immunoregulation. CD4(+) and CD4(-) iNKTs develop with similar frequencies in murine thymus and depend on interleukin-15 (IL-15) in periphery. However, homeostatic requirements of iNKTs have not been analyzed in humans. We evaluated thymic production, peripheral dynamics, and functional maturation of human iNKTs. CD4(+) subset comprises 90\% of iNKTs in mature thymocytes and cord blood (CB) but only 40\% in adult blood. Using T-cell receptor excision circle (TREC) analysis, we directly measured in vivo replicative history of CD4(+) and CD4(-) iNKT cells. Compared to CD4(+), CD4(-) iNKTs contain fewer TRECs, express higher levels of IL-2Rbeta, and proliferate with higher rate in response to IL-15. In contrast, CD4(+) cells express higher levels of IL-7Ralpha and better respond to IL-7. Neither thymic nor CB iNKTs are able to produce cytokines unless they are induced to proliferate. Therefore, unlike in the mouse, human CD4(+) iNKTs are mainly supported by thymic output and limited peripheral expansion, whereas CD4(-) cells undergo extensive peripheral expansion, and both subsets develop their functions in periphery. These findings reveal important differences in homeostatic requirements and functional maturation between murine and human iNKTs that are to be considered for clinical purposes.
This article was published in Blood
and referenced in Journal of Clinical & Cellular Immunology