For nearly a decade it has been appreciated that critical steps in human natural killer (NK) cell development likely occur outside of the bone marrow and potentially necessitate distinct microenvironments within extramedullary tissues. The latter include the liver and gravid uterus as well as secondary lymphoid tissues such as tonsils and lymph nodes. For as yet unknown reasons these tissues are naturally enriched with NK cell developmental intermediates (NKDI) that span a maturation continuum starting from an oligopotent CD34(+)CD45RA(+) hematopoietic precursor cell to a cytolytic mature NK cell. Indeed despite the detection of NKDI within the aforementioned tissues, relatively little is known about how, why, and when these tissues may be most suited to support NK cell maturation and how this process fits in with other components of the human immune system. With the discovery of other innate lymphoid subsets whose immunophenotypes overlap with those of NKDI, there is also need to revisit and potentially re-characterize the basic immunophenotypes of the stages of the human NK cell developmental pathway in vivo. In this review, we provide an overview of human NK cell development in secondary lymphoid tissues and discuss the many questions that remain to be answered in this exciting field.
Keywords: Cellular stages; Development; Innate lymphoid cells; NK precursors; Natural killer cells; Secondary lymphoid tissues.
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