Natural killer cells remember: An evolutionary bridge between innate and adaptive immunity?

Authors

  • Joseph C. Sun,

    1. Department of Microbiology and Immunology and the Cancer Research Institute, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA
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  • Lewis L. Lanier

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Microbiology and Immunology and the Cancer Research Institute, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA
    • Department of Microbiology and Immunology and the Cancer Research Institute, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143–0414, USAFax: +1-415-502-8424
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Abstract

Since their discovery three decades ago, NK cells have been classified as cells of the innate immune system. NK cells were shown to respond rapidly and non-specifically to infection, and were thought to act as a functional “bridge” to sustain the early innate immune response until the later adaptive immune responses could be mounted. In light of new findings showing how NK cells possess nearly all of the features of adaptive immunity including memory, we propose the placement of NK cells as an “evolutionary bridge” between innate and adaptive immunity.

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