Human NK cells are classified into two populations according to the intensity of CD56 surface expression, as well as possession of CD16, FcRIII. CD56(dim)CD16(bright) make up 90% circulating NK cells, whereas CD56(bright)CD16(-/dim) comprises the remaining 10%. Here we report that peripheral NK cells upon CD16 cross-linking up-regulates the expression of activating markers and receptors such as CD25, CD69, NKp44, NKp30, CD40L and the intensity of CD56 expression. Additionally, co-culturing immature DCs with CD16 activated NK cells was found to significantly increase the expression of maturation markers on DCs. These results suggest that CD16 cross-linking on resting peripheral blood NK cells triggers the activation of these cells and induces the appearance of CD56(bright) NK cells. The latter were found capable of producing pro-inflammatory cytokines, IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha and notably IL-12.
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