CD107a as a functional marker for the identification of natural killer cell activity

J Immunol Methods. 2004 Nov;294(1-2):15-22. doi: 10.1016/j.jim.2004.08.008.


Natural killer (NK) cells are a subset of lymphocytes that play a central role in the innate immune response to tumors and infections. An important limitation in the field of NK research is attributable to the deficit of assays available for the detection of the functional activity of NK cells. Recently, lysosomal-associated membrane protein-1 (LAMP-1 or CD107a) has been described as a marker of CD8+ T-cell degranulation following stimulation. Here we describe CD107a as a marker of NK cell functional activity using multi-parameter flow cytometry. CD107a is significantly upregulated on the surface of NK cells following stimulation with MHC devoid targets. Additionally, CD107a expression correlates with both cytokine secretion and NK cell-mediated lysis of target cells. However, as well as being coordinately expressed on nearly all cytokine secreting cells, CD107a was also expressed on a large subset of NK cells that did not secrete cytokine following stimulation. These data suggest that employing CD107a as a marker of NK cell functional activity may allow for the identification of a large fraction of activated NK cells that may degranulate in the absence of cytokine secretion. Cumulatively, the data presented here demonstrate that CD107a is a sensitive marker of NK cell activity.

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD / biosynthesis*
  • Antigens, CD / immunology
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cell Degranulation / immunology*
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic / immunology*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens / immunology
  • Humans
  • K562 Cells
  • Killer Cells, Natural / cytology
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / physiology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology*
  • Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • Lysosomal-Associated Membrane Protein 1
  • Lysosome-Associated Membrane Glycoproteins
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / physiology*
  • Up-Regulation / immunology


  • Antigens, CD
  • Biomarkers
  • Cytokines
  • Histocompatibility Antigens
  • Lysosomal-Associated Membrane Protein 1
  • Lysosome-Associated Membrane Glycoproteins