Natural killer (NK) cells and non-cytotoxic interferon-γ (IFN-γ)-producing group I innate lymphoid cells (ILC1s) produce large amounts of IFN-γ and cause activation of innate and adaptive immunity. However, how NKs and ILC1s are primed during infection remains elusive. Here we have shown that a lymphocyte subpopulation natural killer-like B (NKB) cells existed in spleen and mesenteric lymph nodes (MLNs). NKBs had unique features that differed from T and B cells, and produced interleukin-18 (IL-18) and IL-12 at an early phase of infection. NKB cells played a critical role in eradication of microbial infection via secretion of IL-18 and IL-12. Moreover, IL-18 deficiency abrogated the antibacterial effect of NKBs. Upon bacterial challenge, NKB precursors (NKBPs) rapidly differentiated to NKBs that activated NKs and ILC1s against microbial infection. Our findings suggest that NKBs might be exploited to develop effective therapies for treatment of infectious diseases.
Innate lymphocytes NK and ILC1 cells play a critical role in eradication of microbes. Fan and colleagues demonstrate that NK-like B cells activate NK and ILC1 cells for priming immune responses against microbial infections.