Identification of novel glycolipid ligands activating a sulfatide-reactive, CD1d-restricted, type II natural killer T lymphocyte



Sulfatide-reactive CD1d-restricted natural killer T (NKT) lymphocytes belong to the type II NKT cell subset with diverse TCRs, and have been found to regulate experimental auto-immune encephalomyelitis, tumor immunity, and experimental hepatitis in murine models. NKT cells can be activated by self-lipids presented by CD1d, manifested as autoreactivity. The identity of most of these self-lipids remains unknown. By isolating lipids from a CD1d-expressing, highly stimulatory antigen presenting cell, we identified isoforms of β-glucosylceramide (GlcCer), with sphingosine and fatty acid chain lengths of C24:0 and C16:0, that activated a sulfatide-reactive type II NKT cell hybridoma. A screen of structurally related glycosphingolipids demonstrated β-galactosylceramide (GalCer) as another ligand, and further, that the lysoforms were the most potent isoform of the glycosphingo-lipid ligands, followed by isoforms with a long fatty acid chain of C24. Thus, the same type II NKT cell was activated by several ligands, namely sulfatide, GlcCer, and GalCer. However, CD1d-dependent reactivity to antigen presenting cells lacking all GlcCer-based glycosphingolipids, or all glycosphingolipids, was maintained. This suggests that other endogenous, nonglycosphingolipid, lipid ligands contribute to steady-state autoreactivity by type II NKT cells.