Natural Killer Cell BiologyNatural killer cell-mediated immunity to pathogens and cancer

Launched September 2009 Updated October 2010 11 lectures
Prof. Lewis Lanier
University of California, San Francisco, USA

Natural Killer (NK) cells were identified in the 1970s based on their ability to spontaneously, without deliberate immunization, kill certain tumor cells. Subsequent studies revealed their role in the control of certain viral infections and their capacity to reject allogeneic bone marrow grafts. The ability of NK cells to discriminate... read morenormal, healthy cells from transformed or pathogen-infected cells is mediated by a sophisticated repertoire of inhibitory and activating receptors for cognate ligands on potential target cells, in conjunction with receptors for interferons and cytokines that can sense the local environment and alter the activation state of NK cells in inflammatory conditions.

Recently, much has been learned about the differentiation of human and mouse NK cells and their specialization into subsets with distinct effector functions. Additionally, how interactions with the host’s MHC class I molecules influence the development of NK cells and potentially modulate their response to infections, cancer, and autoimmune disease is a rapidly advancing area. The goal of this lecture series is to present a “state-of-the-art” review of human NK cell biology in humans and mouse model system and highlight areas in which NK cells might be manipulated for therapeutic applications in infectious disease, cancer, or transplantation.