Natural killer (NK) cells play a crucial role in early immunity after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation because they are the first lymphocyte subset recovering after the allograft. In this study, we analyzed the development of NK cells after intrabone umbilical cord blood (CB) transplantation in 18 adult patients with hematologic malignancies. Our data indicate that, also in this transplantation setting, NK cells are the first lymphoid population detectable in peripheral blood. However, different patterns of NK-cell development could be identified. Indeed, in a group of patients, a relevant fraction of NK cells expressed a mature phenotype characterized by the KIR +NKG2A - signature 3-6 months after transplantation. In other patients, most NK cells maintained an immature phenotype even after 12 months. A possible role for cytomegalovirus in the promotion of NK-cell development was suggested by the observation that a more rapid NK-cell maturation together with expansion of NKG2C +NK cells was confined to patients experiencing cytomegalovirus reactivation. In a fraction of these patients, an aberrant and hyporesponsive CD56 -CD16 +p75/AIRM1 -NK-cell subset (mostly KIR +NKG2A -) reminiscent of that described in patients with viremic HIV was detected. Our data support the concept that cytomegalovirus infection may drive NK-cell development after umbilical CB transplantation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology