IL-2−driven Regulation of NK Cell Receptors With Regard to the Distribution of CD16+ and CD16 Subpopulations and In Vivo Influence After Haploidentical NK Cell Infusion

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To characterize natural killer (NK) cell subpopulations during activation, we analyzed the NK cell receptor repertoire and functionality of purified clinical scale CD56+CD3 donor NK cells during stimulation with 1000 U/mL interleukin (IL)-2 for up to 14 days. In a phase I/II trial, we investigated the efficacy and feasibility of nonidentical NK cell infusion in patients with neuroblastoma after haploidentical stem cell transplantation. After IL-2 stimulation, large differences in the distribution of CD16negative and CD16positive subpopulations were found in 12 donors. Thereby, surface expression for all natural cytotoxicity receptors (NCRs) and NKG2D increased. In addition, killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptor (KIR)+ NK cells were overgrown by KIR proportion and the homing receptor CD62L was lost during stimulation. NK cell cytotoxicity against K562 and neuroblastoma cells increased and significantly higher cytokine secretion (eg, interferon-γ, tumor necrosis factor-β, macrophage inflammatory protein-1α, macrophage inflammatory protein-1β) was observed after IL-2 stimulation compared with freshly isolated NK cells. However, NK cells of donors showing an initially enhanced cytotoxicity combined with NCRbright and CD69 expression, seemed to be exhausted and did not favor a stimulation period over 9 days. When IL-2–stimulated NK cells were given to transplant recipients, they induced a decrease of peripheral blood NK, in particular of CD56bright-NK cells. Our data indicate that IL-2 stimulation increases the expression of activating receptors and emphasizes mechanisms beside KIR/human leukocyte antigen. Furthermore, the results suggest that the expansion period of purified NK cells has to be individualized to optimize NK cell immunotherapy.

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