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Keywords:

  • NK cell · NKp46 · Swine

So far little is known about natural killer (NK) cells in the pig due to the lack of NK cell-specific markers. In this study, we identified the activating receptor NKp46 (CD335) in swine with newly developed monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) for more detailed studies on NK cells in this species. The NKp46 mAbs showed a specific reactivity with a distinct population of perforin+CD2+CD3CD8α+CD16+ lymphocytes. In spleen and liver, an additional subset of CD8αdim/− lymphocytes with increased NKp46 expression was observed. Surprisingly, we could identify NKp46 cells with an NK cell phenotype in all animals analyzed. These lymphocytes showed comparable cytolytic activity against xenogeneic and allogeneic target cells as NKp46+ NK cells. In contrast, NKp46+ NK cells produced several fold higher levels of interferon-γ (IFN-γ) than the NKp46 cells after cytokine stimulation. Furthermore, an activation-dependent induction of NKp46 expression in formerly NKp46 cells after stimulation with interleukin-2 (IL-2), IL-12, and IL-18 could be shown. In summary, our data indicate that NKp46 is not expressed by all porcine NK cells and that NKp46 discriminates porcine NK cells differing in regard to cytokine production, which challenges the paradigm of NKp46 as a comprehensive marker for NK cells across different mammalian species.