A major group of murine NK T (NKT) cells express an invariant Vα14Jα18 TCR α-chain specific for glycolipid Ags presented by CD1d. Murine Vα14Jα18+ account for 30-50% of hepatic T cells and have potent antitumor activities. We have enumerated and characterized their human counterparts, Vα24Vβ11+ NKT cells, freshly isolated from histologically normal and tumor-bearing livers. In contrast to mice, human NKT cells are found in small numbers in healthy liver (0.5% of CD3+ cells) and blood (0.02%). In contrast to those in blood, most hepatic Vα24+ NKT cells express the Vβ11 chain. They include CD4+, CD8+, and CD4 -CD8- cells, and many express the NK cell markers CD56, CD161, and/or CD69. Importantly, human hepatic Vα24+ T cells are potent producers of IFN-γ and TNF-α, but not IL-2 or IL-4, when stimulated pharmacologically or with the NKT cell ligand, α-galactosylceramide. Vα24+Vβ11+ cell numbers are reduced in tumor-bearing compared with healthy liver (0.1 vs 0.5%; p < 0.04). However, hepatic cells from cancer patients and healthy donors release similar amounts of IFN-γ in response to α-galactosylceramide. These data indicate that hepatic NKT cell repertoires are phenotypically and functionally distinct in humans and mice. Depletions of hepatic NKT cell subpopulations may underlie the susceptibility to metastatic liver disease.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy