Natural killer (NK) cells from patients with familial hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis because of PRF1 (FHL2, n = 5) or MUNC13-4 (FHL3, n = 8) mutations were cultured in IL-2 prior to their use in various functional assays. Here, we report on the surface CD107a expression as a novel rapid tool for identification of patients with Munc13-4 defect. On target interaction and degranulation, FHL3 NK cells displayed low levels of surface CD107a staining, in contrast to healthy control subjects or perforin-deficient NK cells. B-EBV cell lines and dendritic cell targets reveal the FHL3 NK-cell defect, whereas highly susceptible tumor targets were partially lysed by FHL3 NK cells expressing only trace amounts of Munc13-4 protein. Perforin-deficient NK cells were completely devoid of any ability to lyse target cells. Cytokine production induced by mAb-crosslinking of triggering receptors was comparable in patients and healthy control subjects. However, when cytokine production was induced by coculture with 721.221 B-EBV cells, FHL NK cells resulted in high producers, whereas control cells were almost ineffective. This could reflect survival versus elimination of B-EBV cells (ie, the source of NK-cell stimulation) in patients versus healthy control subjects, thus mimicking the pathophysiologic scenario of FHL.
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