Natural killer T cells: natural or unnatural regulators of autoimmunity?

Curr Opin Immunol. 2003 Dec;15(6):683-9. doi: 10.1016/j.coi.2003.09.014.


Natural killer T (NKT) cells are a unique lymphocyte subtype implicated in the regulation of autoimmunity, particularly diabetes and experimental allergic encephalomyelitis in animal models. In some reports, NKT-cell regulation was revealed only following vigorous activation by a synthetic glycolipid, a process that might not occur naturally. Patients with diverse autoimmune diseases have reduced NKT-cell counts and, in diabetes and multiple sclerosis, effective NKT-cell regulation correlates with the secretion of Th2 cytokines. Although current controversy surrounds the importance of NKT cells and their modes of action, they represent a potentially important clinical target.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmunity / immunology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / immunology
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / immunology
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Multiple Sclerosis / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*