Compartmentalization of human natural killer cells

Mol Immunol. 2005 Feb;42(4):523-9. doi: 10.1016/j.molimm.2004.07.036.


Human natural killer (NK) cells are bone marrow-derived cells that are found in the bloodstream, but can extravasate into various tissue sites upon inflammation. NK cells that migrate toward inflamed sites must be activated prior to their extravasation. However, the factors responsible for NK cell compartmentalization are not clearly defined. Resting human NK cells (CD16(-) and CD16(+)) express constitutive chemokine receptors, as well as receptors that have both constitutive and inflammatory functions. Upon activation, NK cells up-regulate the expression of the inflammatory chemokine receptors which facilitate their distribution into inflammatory sites. However, chemokines are not expected to play any role in maintaining resting NK cells in the blood circulation. In contrast, members of the lysolipids which are abundant in the bloodstream may be the major factors responsible for maintaining resting NK cells in the bloodstream, and also for facilitating their extravasation into inflamed tissues. Both resting and activated NK cells express receptors for various lysolipids. Hence, chemoattractants which include chemokines and lysolipids have important roles in determining the compartmentalization of NK cells where resting NK cells are found in the blood circulation, and activated NK cells extravasate into inflamed sites.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Chemokines / physiology*
  • Chemotaxis, Leukocyte / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / physiology*
  • Lysophospholipids / blood
  • Lysophospholipids / genetics
  • Lysophospholipids / physiology*
  • Receptors, Chemokine / physiology


  • Chemokines
  • Lysophospholipids
  • Receptors, Chemokine