CD1d-restricted Recognition of Synthetic Glycolipid Antigens by Human Natural Killer T Cells

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Abstract

Summary

A conserved subset of mature circulating T cells in humans expresses an invariant Vα24-JαQ T cell receptor (TCR)-α chain rearrangement and several natural killer (NK) locus-encoded C-type lectins. These human T cells appear to be precise homologues of the subset of NK1.1+ TCR-α/β+ T cells, often referred to as NK T cells, which was initially identified in mice. Here we show that human NK T cell clones are strongly and specifically activated by the same synthetic glycolipid antigens as have been shown recently to stimulate murine NK T cells. Responses of human NK T cells to these synthetic glycolipids, consisting of certain α-anomeric sugars conjugated to an acylated phytosphingosine base, required presentation by antigen-presenting cells expressing the major histocompatibility complex class I-like CD1d protein. Presentation of synthetic glycolipid antigens to human NK T cells required internalization of the glycolipids by the antigen-presenting cell and normal endosomal targeting of CD1d. Recognition of these compounds by human NK T cells triggered proliferation, cytokine release, and cytotoxic activity. These results demonstrate a striking parallel in the specificity of NK T cells in humans and mice, thus providing further insight into the potential mechanisms of immune recognition by NK T cells and the immunological function of this unique T cell subset.

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