Dendritic cell editing by activated natural killer cells results in a more protective cancer-specific immune response

Barbara Morandi, Lorenzo Mortara, Laura Chiossone, Roberto S. Accolla, Maria Cristina Mingari, Lorenzo Moretta, Alessandro Moretta, Guido Ferlazzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over the last decade, several studies have extensively reported that activated natural killer (NK) cells can kill autologous immature dendritic cells (DCs) in vitro, whereas they spare fully activated DCs. This led to the proposal that activated NK cells might select a more immunogenic subset of DCs during a protective immune response. However, there is no demonstration that autologous DC killing by NK cells is an event occurring in vivo and, consequently, the functional relevance of this killing remains elusive. Here we report that a significant decrease of CD11c+ DCs was observed in draining lymph nodes of mice inoculated with MHC-devoid cells as NK cell targets able to induce NK cell activation. This in vivo DC editing by NK cells was perforin-dependent and it was functionally relevant, since residual lymph node DCs displayed an improved capability to induce T cell proliferation. In addition, in a model of anti-cancer vaccination, the administration of MHC-devoid cells together with tumor cells increased the number of tumor-specific CTLs and resulted in a significant increase in survival of mice upon challenge with a lethal dose of tumor cells. Depletion of NK cells or the use of perforin knockout mice strongly decreased the tumor-specific CTL expansion and its protective role against tumor cell challenge. As a whole, our data support the hypothesis that NK cell-mediated DC killing takes place in vivo and is able to promote expansion of cancer-specific CTLs. Our results also indicate that cancer vaccines could be improved by strategies aimed at activating NK cells.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere39170
JournalPLoS One
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 19 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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