NKT cells act as regulatory cells rather than killer cells during activation of NK cell-mediated cytotoxicity by α-galactosylceramide in vivo

Kenji Chamoto, Tsuguhide Takeshima, Akemi Kosaka, Takemasa Tsuji, Junko Matsuzaki, Yuji Togashi, Hiroaki Ikeda, Takashi Nishimura

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Administration of NKT cell ligands, α-galactosylceramide (α-GalCer) resulted in the activation of both cytokine production and natural killing. These responses were abolished in both CD1d-deficient mice and Vα14NKT-deficient mice. Therefore, NKT cells have been considered to be responsible cells for both cytokine production and natural killing. Here, we reevaluated a critical role of NKT and NK cells at early time after α-GalCer administration. Intracellular staining experiments demonstrated that NKT cells were the earliest source of both IL-4 and IFN-γ production after α-GalCer administration in vivo. However, these α-GalCer- activated NKT cells exhibited no significant natural killing activity. In contrast, isolated NK1.1+CD3- classical NK cells exhibited greatly enhanced natural killing activity 6 h after α-GalCer administration. NKT cells, however, exhibited a strong cytotoxicity when they were activated and expanded with α-GalCer plus IL-2 in vitro. These results indicated that NKT cells act as regulatory cells via production of cytokines for activation of NK cell-mediated cytotoxicity in vivo at early phase after α-GalCer administration. Thus, NK cells rather than NKT cells may be a crucial early activated killer induced by α-GalCer in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-11
Number of pages7
JournalImmunology Letters
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Aug 15 2004



  • α-GalCer
  • Cytotoxicity
  • NK
  • NKT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Immunology and Allergy

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