Unconventional repertoire profile is imprinted during acute chikungunya infection for natural killer cells polarization toward cytotoxicity

PLoS Pathog. 2011 Sep;7(9):e1002268. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1002268. Epub 2011 Sep 22.


Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is a worldwide emerging pathogen. In humans it causes a syndrome characterized by high fever, polyarthritis, and in some cases lethal encephalitis. Growing evidence indicates that the innate immune response plays a role in controlling CHIKV infection. We show here that CHIKV induces major but transient modifications in NK-cell phenotype and function soon after the onset of acute infection. We report a transient clonal expansion of NK cells that coexpress CD94/NKG2C and inhibitory receptors for HLA-C1 alleles and are correlated with the viral load. Functional tests reveal cytolytic capacity driven by NK cells in the absence of exogenous signals and severely impaired IFN-γ production. Collectively these data provide insight into the role of this unique subset of NK cells in controlling CHIKV infection by subset-specific expansion in response to acute infection, followed by a contraction phase after viral clearance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alphavirus Infections / immunology*
  • CD56 Antigen / immunology
  • Chikungunya Fever
  • Chikungunya virus / immunology
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic / immunology*
  • Female
  • HLA-C Antigens / immunology
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • NK Cell Lectin-Like Receptor Subfamily C / immunology
  • NK Cell Lectin-Like Receptor Subfamily D / immunology
  • Receptors, Natural Killer Cell / analysis


  • CD56 Antigen
  • HLA-C Antigens
  • KLRC2 protein, human
  • KLRD1 protein, human
  • NCAM1 protein, human
  • NK Cell Lectin-Like Receptor Subfamily C
  • NK Cell Lectin-Like Receptor Subfamily D
  • Receptors, Natural Killer Cell