Bispecific and trispecific killer cell engagers directly activate human NK cells through CD16 signaling and induce cytotoxicity and cytokine production

Mol Cancer Ther. 2012 Dec;11(12):2674-84. doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-12-0692. Epub 2012 Oct 17.


This study evaluates the mechanism by which bispecific and trispecific killer cell engagers (BiKEs and TriKEs) act to trigger human natural killer (NK) cell effector function and investigates their ability to induce NK cell cytokine and chemokine production against human B-cell leukemia. We examined the ability of BiKEs and TriKEs to trigger NK cell activation through direct CD16 signaling, measuring intracellular Ca²⁺ mobilization, secretion of lytic granules, induction of target cell apoptosis, and production of cytokine and chemokines in response to the Raji cell line and primary leukemia targets. Resting NK cells triggered by the recombinant reagents led to intracellular Ca²⁺ mobilization through direct CD16 signaling. Coculture of reagent-treated resting NK cells with Raji targets resulted in significant increases in NK cell degranulation and target cell death. BiKEs and TriKEs effectively mediated NK cytotoxicity of Raji targets at high and low effector-to-target ratios and maintained functional stability after 24 and 48 hours of culture in human serum. NK cell production of IFN-γ, TNF-α, granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), interleukin (IL)-8, macrophage inflammatory protein (MIP)-1α, and regulated and normal T cell expressed and secreted (RANTES) was differentially induced in the presence of recombinant reagents and Raji targets. Moreover, significant increases in NK cell degranulation and enhancement of IFN-γ production against primary acute lymphoblastic leukemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia targets were induced with reagent treatment of resting NK cells. In conclusion, BiKEs and TriKEs directly trigger NK cell activation through CD16, significantly increasing NK cell cytolytic activity and cytokine production against tumor targets, showing their therapeutic potential for enhancing NK cell immunotherapies for leukemias and lymphomas.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Bispecific / genetics
  • Antibodies, Bispecific / immunology
  • Antibodies, Bispecific / metabolism
  • Antigens, CD19 / genetics
  • Antigens, CD19 / immunology
  • Antigens, CD19 / metabolism
  • Burkitt Lymphoma / immunology
  • Burkitt Lymphoma / therapy
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Cytokines / immunology*
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic
  • Epitopes / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin Fragments / genetics
  • Immunoglobulin Fragments / immunology
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive / methods*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology
  • Receptors, IgG / genetics
  • Receptors, IgG / immunology*
  • Receptors, IgG / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • Antibodies, Bispecific
  • Antigens, CD19
  • Cytokines
  • Epitopes
  • Immunoglobulin Fragments
  • Receptors, IgG