Infection leads to heightened activation of natural killer (NK) cells, a process that likely involves direct cell-to-cell contact, but how this occurs in vivo is poorly understood. We have used two-photon laser-scanning microscopy in conjunction with Toxoplasma gondii mouse infection models to address this question. We found that after infection, NK cells accumulated in the subcapsular region of the lymph node, where they formed low-motility contacts with collagen fibers and CD169(+) macrophages. We provide evidence that interactions with collagen regulate NK cell migration, whereas CD169(+) macrophages increase the activation state of NK cells. Interestingly, a subset of CD169(+) macrophages that coexpress the inflammatory monocyte marker Ly6C had the most potent ability to activate NK cells. Our data reveal pathways through which NK cell migration and function are regulated after infection and identify an important accessory cell population for activation of NK cell responses in lymph nodes.
Copyright © 2012 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.