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Keywords:

  • antigen presentation;
  • dendritic cells;
  • immune therapy;
  • liver immunology;
  • natural killer cells

Summary

The primary aim of this study was to evaluate the role of natural killer (NK) cells on antigen-specific adaptive immune responses. After analysing the mechanism of impaired adaptive immune responses of NK-depleted mice, an immune interventional approach was developed to restore adaptive immunity in NK-depleted mice. NK cells were depleted from mice by administration of anti-asialo GM1 antibody (100 μl/mouse), twice, at an interval of 48 h. Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) was administered intraperitoneally to normal C57BL/6 mice (control mice) and NK-depleted mice. The levels of antibody to HBsAg (anti-HBs) in the sera and HBsAg-specific lymphocytes in the spleen were assessed. The functions of T lymphocytes, B lymphocytes and dendritic cells (DCs) were evaluated in vitro. HBsAg-pulsed DCs were prepared by culturing spleen DCs with HBsAg for 48 h and administered once to NK-depleted mice. The levels of anti-HBs in the sera and HBsAg-specific lymphocytes were significantly lower in NK-depleted mice compared with control mice (P < 0·05). The functions of T and B lymphocytes were similar between control mice and NK-depleted mice. However, the functions of spleen DC and liver DC were significantly lower in NK-depleted mice compared with control mice (P < 0·05). Administration of HBsAg-pulsed DCs, but not HBsAg, induced HBsAg-specific humoral and cellular immune responses in NK-depleted mice. Our study suggests that cross-talk between NK cells and DCs regulates the magnitude of adaptive immunity. In addition, antigen-pulsed immunogenic DCs represent potent immune modulator even if subjects with diminished innate immunity.