Natural killer T-cell characterization through gene expression profiling: an account of versatility bridging T helper type 1 (Th1), Th2 and Th17 immune responses

Immunology. 2008 Jan;123(1):45-56. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2567.2007.02701.x. Epub 2007 Oct 4.


Natural killer T (NKT) cells constitute a distinct lymphocyte lineage at the interface between innate and adaptive immunity, yet their role in the immune response remains elusive. Whilst NKT cells share features with other conventional T lymphocytes, they are unique in their rapid, concomitant production of T helper type 1 (Th1) and Th2 cytokines upon T-cell receptor (TCR) ligation. In order to characterize the gene expression of NKT cells, we performed comparative microarray analyses of murine resting NKT cells, natural killer (NK) cells and naïve conventional CD4+ T helper (Th) and regulatory T cells (Treg). We then compared the gene expression profiles of resting and alpha-galactosylceramide (alphaGalCer)-activated NKT cells to elucidate the gene expression signature upon activation. We describe here profound differences in gene expression among the various cell types and the identification of a unique NKT cell gene expression profile. In addition to known NKT cell-specific markers, many genes were expressed in NKT cells that had not been attributed to this population before. NKT cells share features not only with Th1 and Th2 cells but also with Th17 cells. Our data provide new insights into the functional competence of NKT cells which will facilitate a better understanding of their versatile role during immune responses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods
  • Gene Expression Regulation / immunology
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis / methods
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology
  • Th1 Cells / immunology
  • Th2 Cells / immunology