The NKG2D receptor, one of the natural killer (NK) cell–activating receptors, is expressed on the surface of CD3+CD8+ T cells, γδ+ T cells, NK cells, NKT cells, and a few CD4+ T cells. We show, for the first time, a critical role for the NKG2D receptor on CD3+CD8+ T cells isolated from myeloma patients, in identifying and killing autologous myeloma cells isolated from the same patients’ marrow. We also show that blocking NKG2D using anti-NKG2D reverses the cytotoxicity while blocking HLA-I using antibodies does not have the same effect, showing that the autologous cytotoxicity is NKG2D dependent and major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-I independent. We further confirmed the NKG2D specificity by small interfering RNA (siRNA) down regulation of NKG2D receptor.

Study Design and Methods

Using ex vivo expansion methods that enrich for NKG2D+CD3+CD8+ T cells, we investigated whether these ex vivo expanded NKG2D+CD3+CD8+ T cells would recognize and lyse autologous and allogeneic myeloma cells, independent of T-cell receptor or MHC-I expression.


Myeloma cell lysis by the NKG2D+CD3+CD8+ T cells correlated with the amount of NKG2D ligand expression. With receptor–ligand interaction, interferon-γ and tumor necrosis factor-α were released. Blocking the NKG2D receptor by using either monoclonal antibodies or siRNAs inhibited the receptor's function and prevented myeloma cell lysis.


Clinical trials are ongoing to determine a correlation with the number and function of NKG2D+CD3+CD8+ T cells and clinical outcomes in transplanted myeloma patients, including lymphocyte recovery following transplant and overall survival.