The unique role of natural killer T cells in the response to microorganisms

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2007 Jun;5(6):405-17. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro1657. Epub 2007 May 8.


Natural killer T (NKT) cells combine features of the innate and adaptive immune systems. Recently, it has become evident that these T cells have crucial roles in the response to infectious agents. The antigen receptor expressed by NKT cells directly recognizes unusual glycolipids that are part of the membrane of certain Gram-negative bacteria and spirochetes. Moreover, even in the absence of microbial glycolipid antigens, these T cells respond to innate cytokines produced by dendritic cells that have been activated by microbes. This indirect sensing of infection, by responding to cytokines from activated dendritic cells, allows NKT cells to react to a broad range of infectious agents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / immunology
  • Bacterial Infections / immunology*
  • Cell Wall / immunology
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*


  • Cytokines
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell