Mapping of NKp46+ cells in healthy human lymphoid and non-lymphoid tissues

Elena Tomasello, Nadia Yessaad, Emilie Gregoire, Kelly Hudspeth, Carmelo Luci, Domenico Mavilio, Jean Hardwigsen, Eric Vivier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding Natural Killer (NK) cell anatomical distribution is key to dissect the role of these unconventional lymphocytes in physiological and disease conditions. In mouse, NK cells have been detected in various lymphoid and non-lymphoid organs, while in humans the current knowledge of NK cell distribution at steady state is mainly restricted to lym-phoid tissues. The translation to humans of findings obtained in mice is facilitated by the identification of NK cell markers conserved between these two species.The Natural Cyto-toxicity Receptor (NCR) NKp46 is a marker of the NK cell lineage evolutionary conserved in mammals. In mice, NKp46 is also present on rare T cell subsets and on a subset of gut Innate Lymphoid Cells (ILCs) expressing the retinoic acid receptor-related orphan receptor γt (RORγt) transcription factor. Here, we documented the distribution and the phenotype of human NKp46+ cells in lymphoid and non-lymphoid tissues isolated from healthy donors. Human NKp46+ cells were found in splenic red pulp, in lymph nodes, in lungs, and gut lamina propria, thus mirroring mouse NKp46+ cell distribution. We also identified a novel cell subset of CD56dim NKp46low cells that includes RORγt+ ILCs with a lineage-CD-94CD-117brightCD127bright phenotype. The use of NKp46 thus contributes to establish the basis for analyzing quantitative and qualitative changes of NK cell and ILC subsets in human diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberArticle 344
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Issue numberNOV
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Expression profiling
  • Human NK cells
  • Nkp46
  • Phenotype
  • Tissue distribution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Immunology and Allergy


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