Phenotypically and functionally distinct subsets of natural killer cells in human PBMCs

Authors

  • Yan-ying Fan,

    1. Department of Immunology, Zhongshan School of Medicine, Sun Yat-Sen University, 74 Zhong-Shan 2nd Road, Guangzhou 510080, PR China
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Bin-yan Yang,

    1. Department of Immunology, Zhongshan School of Medicine, Sun Yat-Sen University, 74 Zhong-Shan 2nd Road, Guangzhou 510080, PR China
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Chang-you Wu

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Immunology, Zhongshan School of Medicine, Sun Yat-Sen University, 74 Zhong-Shan 2nd Road, Guangzhou 510080, PR China
    Search for more papers by this author

Corresponding author. Tel./fax: +86 20 8733 1552. changyou_wu@yahoo.com

Abstract

Human natural killer (NK) cells are one major component of lymphocytes that mediate early protection against viruses and tumor cells, and play an important role in immune regulatory functions. In this study, we demonstrated that human NK cells could be divided into four subsets, CD56hiCD16, CD56loCD16, CD56+CD16+ and CD56CD16+, based on the expression of cell surface CD56 and CD16 molecules. Phenotypic analysis of NK cell subsets indicated that the expression of activation markers, adhesion molecules, memory cell markers, inhibitory and activating receptors, and intracellular proteins (granzyme B and perforin) were heterogeneous. Following interleukin (IL)-2 stimulation, interferon-γ was preferentially produced by CD56+CD16 NK cells and this subset showed more proliferative capacity. The cytolytic activity of both CD56+CD16 and CD56+/−CD16+ subsets could be augmented in response to IL-2. The data provided a new definition for NK cell subsets demonstrating their phenotypic and functional diversity and possible stage of NK cell differentiation in peripheral blood.

Ancillary