Regulation of autoimmune disease by natural killer T cells

J Mol Med (Berl). 2002 May;80(5):290-300. doi: 10.1007/s00109-002-0332-8. Epub 2002 Apr 11.


Natural killer T (NKT) cells express phenotypic characteristics shared by conventional natural killer cells and T cells, and reside in several primary and secondary lymphoid as well as nonlymphoid organs. Although these cells possess important effector functions in immunity against cancer and microbial pathogens, their immunoregulatory function has received much recent attention. There is convincing evidence to suggest a regulatory role for these cells in the control of susceptibility to autoimmune disease. NKT cells are reduced in number and function in autoimmune disease prone mice and humans. Studies conducted in mice have shown that transfer of NKT cells to disease-susceptible recipients prevents the development of autoimmune disease. The recent discovery that alpha-galactosylceramide, a glycolipid, can specifically target NKT cells expressing the invariant T cell receptor (TCR) to proliferate and produce an array of regulatory cytokines and chemokines has generated considerable interest to utilize these cells as targets of new therapeutic interventions for the immunoregulation of autoimmune disease

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / immunology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / prevention & control
  • Homeostasis / immunology
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*