CD161 (NKR-P1A) costimulation of CD1d-dependent activation of human T cells expressing invariant Vα24JαQT cell receptor α chains

Mark Exley, Steven Porcelli, Margo Furman, Jorge Garcia, Steven Balk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

168 Scopus citations


A population of human T cells expressing an invariant Vα24JαQ T cell antigen receptor (TCR) α chain and high levels of CD161 (NKR-P1A) appears to play an immunoregulatory role through production of both T helper (Th) type 1 and Th2 cytokines. Unlike other CD161+ T cells, the major histocompatibility complex-like nonpolymorphic CD1d molecule is the target for the TCR expressed by these T cells (Vα24(invt) T cells) and by the homologous murine NK1 (NKR- P1C)+ T cell population. In this report, CD161 was shown to act as a specific costimulatory molecule for TCR-mediated proliferation and cytokine secretion by Mα24(invt) T cells. However, in contrast to results in the mouse, ligation of CD161 in the absence of TCR stimulation did not result in Vα24(invt) T cell activation, and costimulation through CD161 did not cause polarization of the cytokine secretion pattern. CD161 monoclonal antibodies specifically inhibited Vα24(invt) T cell proliferation and cytokine Secretion in response to CD1d+ target cells, demonstrating a physiological accessory molecule function for CD161. However, CD1d-restricted target cell lysis by activated Vα24(invt) T cells, which involved a granule-mediated exocytotic mechanism, was CD161-independent. In further contrast to the mouse, the signaling pathway involved in Vα24(invt) T cell costimulation through CD161 did not appear to involve stable association with tyrosine kinase p56(Lck). These results demonstrate a role for CD161 as a novel costimulatory molecule for TCR-mediated recognition of CD1d by human Vα24(invt) T cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)867-876
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 7 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • CD161
  • CD1d
  • Costimulation
  • T cells
  • Vα24JαQ

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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