Reconstitution of multifunctional CD56lowCD16low natural killer cell subset in children with acute leukemia given α/β T cell-depleted HLA-haploidentical haematopoietic stem cell transplantation

Stabile Helena, Nisti Paolo, Peruzzi Giovanna, Fionda Cinzia, Pagliara Daria, Pomonia Brescia Letizia, Merli Pietro, Locatelli Franco, Angela Santoni, Angela Gismondi

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We recently described the CD56lowCD16low subset of Natural Killer (NK) cells that both mediate cytotoxic activity and produce IFNγ, being more abundant in bone marrow (BM) than in peripheral blood (PB) of pediatric normal subjects. Given the multifunctional properties of this subset, we examined its development and functional recovery in a cohort of children undergoing α/β T-cell depleted HLA-haploidentical haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). The results obtained indicate that CD56lowCD16low NK cells are present in both PB and BM already at one month post-HSCT, with an increased frequency in BM of graft recipients as compared with normal subjects. During the first 6 months after HSCT, no difference in CD56lowCD16low NK cells distribution between PB and BM was observed. In comparison to normal subjects, CD56lowCD16low NK cells from transplanted patients show lower expression levels of CD25 and CD127 and higher levels of CD122, and accordingly, produce higher amounts of IFNγ after stimulation with IL-12 plus IL-15. The recovery of NK-cell cytotoxicity after HSCT was strictly restricted to CD56lowCD16low NK cells, and their ability to degranulate against K562 target cells or autologous leukemic blasts was completely restored only one year after HSCT. Based on the phenotypic and functional ability of reconstituted CD56lowCD16low NK cells, we suggest that they play an important role in host defense against leukemia relapse and infections after HSCT, and represent an ideal candidate for approaches of adoptive immunotherapy.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1342024
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2 2017


  • Cytokine production
  • Cytotoxicity
  • haematological malignancies
  • Haematopoietic stem cell transplantation
  • Natural Killer cell subsets
  • Phenotype

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Oncology

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