Experimental malaria infection triggers early expansion of natural killer cells

Infect Immun. 2008 Dec;76(12):5873-82. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00640-08. Epub 2008 Sep 29.


In order to gain a better understanding of gene expression during early malaria infection, we conducted microarray analysis of early blood responses in mice infected with erythrocytic-stage Plasmodium chabaudi. Immediately following infection, we observed coordinated and sequential waves of immune responses, with interferon-associated gene transcripts dominating by 16 h postinfection, followed by strong increases in natural killer (NK) cell-associated and major histocompatibility complex class I-related transcripts by 32 h postinfection. We showed by flow cytometry that the observed elevation in NK cell-associated transcripts was the result of a dramatic increase in the proportion of NK cells in the blood during infection. Subsequent microarray analysis of NK cells isolated from the peripheral blood of infected mice revealed a cell proliferation expression signature consistent with the observation that NK cells replicate in response to infection. Early proliferation of NK cells was directly observed in studies with adoptively transferred cells in infected mice. These data indicate that the early response to P. chabaudi infection of the blood is marked by a primary wave of interferon with a subsequent response by NK cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adoptive Transfer
  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gene Expression / immunology*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / biosynthesis
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / immunology
  • Interferons / biosynthesis
  • Interferons / immunology
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Malaria / genetics
  • Malaria / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Plasmodium chabaudi / immunology


  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Interferons