Mechanism of regulation of autoimmunity by iNKT cells

Cytokine. 2011 Mar;53(3):263-70. doi: 10.1016/j.cyto.2010.11.001. Epub 2010 Dec 23.


iNKT cells, CD1d dependent natural killer T cells are a unique population of T cells. The capacity of iNKT cells to produce regulatory cytokines first provided an indication of their regulatory potential. Later on, in experimental models as well as in patients afflicted with an auto-immune disease, such as Type 1 diabetes mellitus, multiple sclerosis, and systemic lupus erythematosus along with others, a deficit in iNKT cell number was observed, suggesting the role these cells may possibly have in the prevention of auto-immune diseases. More importantly, experimental strategies which focused on increasing the volume or stimulation of iNKT cells in laboratory animals, demonstrated an improved level of protection against the development of auto-immune diseases. This article reviews the mechanism of protection against autoimmunity by iNKT cells, discusses the obstacles against and indications for the potential use of iNKT cell manipulation in the treatment of human auto-immune diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, CD1d / immunology*
  • Antigens, CD1d / metabolism
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology*
  • Autoimmunity / immunology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / immunology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / immunology
  • Multiple Sclerosis / immunology
  • Natural Killer T-Cells / immunology*
  • Natural Killer T-Cells / metabolism


  • Antigens, CD1d