Janus-like role of regulatory iNKT cells in autoimmune disease and tumour immunity

Nat Rev Immunol. 2003 Mar;3(3):211-22. doi: 10.1038/nri1028.


Invariant CD1D-restricted natural killer T (iNKT) cells function during innate and adaptive immunity and regulate numerous immune responses, such as autoimmune disease, tumour surveillance, infectious disease and abortions. However, the molecular basis of their functions and the nature of disease-associated defects of iNKT cells are unclear and have been the subject of recent controversy. Here, we review recent findings that underscore the potential importance of interactions between iNKT cells and dendritic cells (DCs) that indicate that iNKT cells regulate DC activity to shape both pro-inflammatory and tolerogenic immune responses. The ability to modulate iNKT-cell activity in vivo using the ligand alpha-galactosylceramide and to treat patients with autoimmune disease or cancer is evaluated also.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, CD1
  • Antigens, CD1d
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology*
  • Cell Communication
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Galactosylceramides / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Surveillance
  • Killer Cells, Natural / drug effects
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Lymphocyte Subsets / drug effects
  • Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • Neoplasms / immunology*


  • Antigens, CD1
  • Antigens, CD1d
  • CD1D protein, human
  • Galactosylceramides