T cell- and B cell-independent adaptive immunity mediated by natural killer cells

Nat Immunol. 2006 May;7(5):507-16. doi: 10.1038/ni1332. Epub 2006 Apr 16.


It is commonly believed that only T lymphocytes and B lymphocytes expressing recombination-dependent antigen-specific receptors mediate contact hypersensitivity responses to haptens. Here we found that mice devoid of T cells and B cells demonstrated substantial contact hypersensitivity responses to 2,4-dinitrofluorobenzene and oxazolone. Those responses were adaptive in nature, as they persisted for at least 4 weeks and were elicited only by haptens to which mice were previously sensitized. No contact hypersensitivity was induced in mice lacking all lymphocytes, including natural killer cells. Contact hypersensitivity responses were acquired by such mice after adoptive transfer of natural killer cells from sensitized donors. Transferable hapten-specific memory resided in a Ly49C-I(+) natural killer subpopulation localized specifically in donor livers. These observations indicate that natural killer cells can mediate long-lived, antigen-specific adaptive recall responses independent of B cells and T cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Dermatitis, Contact* / immunology
  • Dinitrofluorobenzene / pharmacology
  • Immunologic Memory*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Liver / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Oxazolone / pharmacology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Urinary Bladder / cytology
  • Urinary Bladder / immunology


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Rag2 protein, mouse
  • Oxazolone
  • Dinitrofluorobenzene