CD56brightCD16- killer Ig-like receptor- NK cells display longer telomeres and acquire features of CD56dim NK cells upon activation

Chiara Romagnani, Kerstin Juelke, Michela Falco, Barbara Morandi, Antonella D'Agostino, Roberta Costa, Giovanni Ratto, Giuseppe Forte, Paolo Carrega, Gabriele Lui, Romana Conte, Till Strowig, Alessandro Moretta, Christian Münz, Andreas Thiel, Lorenzo Moretta, Guido Ferlazzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human NK cells can be divided into CD56dimCD16+ killer Ig-like receptors (KIR)+/- and CD56brightCD16 - KIR- subsets that have been characterized extensively regarding their different functions, phenotype, and tissue localization. Nonetheless, the developmental relationship between these two NK cell subsets remains controversial. We report that, upon cytokine activation, peripheral blood (PB)-CD56bright NK cells mainly gain the signature of CD56 dim NK cells. Remarkably, KIR can be induced not only on CD56 bright, but also on CD56dim KIR- NK cells, and their expression correlates with lower proliferative response. In addition, we demonstrate for the first time that PB-CD56dbn display shorter telomeres than PB- and lymph node (LN)-derived CD56brightNK cells. Along this line, although human NK cells collected from nonreactive LN display almost no KIR and CD16 expression, NK cells derived from highly reactive LN, efferent lymph, and PB express significant amounts of KR and CD16, implying that CD56 bright NK cells could acquire these molecules in the LN during inflammation and then circulate through the efferent lymph into PB as KR +CD16+ NK cells. Altogether, our results suggest that CD56brightCD16- KIR- and CD56 dimCD16+KIR+/- NK cells correspond to sequential steps of differentiation and support the hypothesis that secondary lymphoid organs can be sites of NK cell final maturation and self-tolerance acquisition during immune reaction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4947-4955
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Apr 15 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology

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