NK cells and other innate lymphoid cells in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation

Paola Vacca, Elisa Montaldo, Daniele Croxatto, Francesca Moretta, Alice Bertaina, Chiara Vitale, Franco Locatelli, Maria Cristina Mingari, Lorenzo Moretta

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review


Natural killer (NK) cells play a major role in the T-cell depleted haploidentical hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (haplo-HSCT) to cure high-risk leukemias. NK cells belong to the expanding family of innate lymphoid cells (ILCs). At variance with NK cells, the other ILC populations (ILC1/2/3) are non-cytolytic, while they secrete different patterns of cytokines. ILCs provide host defenses against viruses, bacteria, and parasites, drive lymphoid organogenesis, and contribute to tissue remodeling. In haplo-HSCT patients, the extensive T-cell depletion is required to prevent graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) but increases risks of developing a wide range of life-threatening infections. However, these patients may rely on innate defenses that are reconstituted more rapidly than the adaptive ones. In this context, ILCs may represent important players in the early phases following transplantation. They may contribute to tissue homeostasis/remodeling and lymphoid tissue reconstitution. While the reconstitution of NK cell repertoire and its role in haplo-HSCT have been largely investigated, little information is available on ILCs. Of note, CD34+ cells isolated from different sources of HSC may differentiate in vitro toward various ILC subsets. Moreover, cytokines released from leukemia blasts (e.g., IL-1β) may alter the proportions of NK cells and ILC3, suggesting the possibility that leukemia may skew the ILC repertoire. Further studies are required to define the timing of ILC development and their potential protective role after HSCT.

Original languageEnglish
Article number188
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Issue numberMAY
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • GVHD
  • Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation
  • Innate lymphoid cells
  • NK cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Immunology and Allergy


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