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Keywords:

  • activation;
  • α-galactosylceramide;
  • α-GalCer;
  • influenza virus;
  • macaques;
  • NKT cells;
  • SIV infection

Summary

Natural killer T cells are a potent mediator of anti-viral immunity in mice, but little is known about the effects of manipulating NKT cells in non-human primates. We evaluated the delivery of the NKT cell ligand, α-galactosylceramide (α-GalCer), in 27 macaques by studying the effects of different dosing (1–100 μg), and delivery modes [directly intravenously (i.v.) or pulsed onto blood or peripheral blood mononuclear cells]. We found that peripheral NKT cells were depleted transiently from the periphery following α-GalCer administration across all delivery modes, particularly in doses of ≥10 μg. Furthermore, NKT cell numbers frequently remained depressed at i.v. α-GalCer doses of >10 μg. Levels of cytokine expression were also not enhanced after α-GalCer delivery to macaques. To evaluate the effects of α-GalCer administration on anti-viral immunity, we administered α-GalCer either together with live attenuated influenza virus infection or prior to simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection of two macaques. There was no clear enhancement of influenza-specific T or B cell immunity following α-GalCer delivery. Further, there was no modulation of pathogenic SIVmac251 infection following α-GalCer delivery to a further two macaques in a pilot study. Accordingly, although macaque peripheral NKT cells are modulated by α-GalCer in vivo, at least for the dosing regimens tested in this study, this does not appear to have a significant impact on anti-viral immunity in macaque models.