Analysis of GzmbCre as a Model System for Gene Deletion in the Natural Killer Cell Lineage

PLoS One. 2015 Apr 29;10(4):e0125211. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0125211. eCollection 2015.


The analysis of gene function in mature and activated natural killer cells has been hampered by the lack of model systems for Cre-mediated recombination in these cells. Here we have investigated the utility of GzmbCre for recombination of loxp sequences in these cells predicated on the observation that Gzmb mRNA is highly expressed in mature and activated natural killer cells. Using two different reporter strains we determined that gene function could be investigated in mature natural killer cells after GzmbCre mediated recombination in vitro in conditions that lead to natural killer cell activation such as in the cytokine combination of interleukin 2 and interleukin 12. We demonstrated the utility of this model by creating GzmbCre;Rosa26IKKbca mice in which Cre-mediated recombination resulted in expression of constitutively active IKKβ, which results in activation of the NFκB transcription factor. In vivo and in vitro activation of IKKβ in natural killer cells revealed that constitutive activation of this pathway leads to natural killer cell hyper-activation and altered morphology. As a caveat to the use of GzmbCre we found that this transgene can lead to recombination in all hematopoietic cells the extent of which varies with the particular loxp flanked allele under investigation. We conclude that GzmbCre can be used under some conditions to investigate gene function in mature and activated natural killer cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Lineage
  • Gene Deletion
  • Granzymes / genetics*
  • Granzymes / metabolism
  • I-kappa B Kinase / genetics
  • Integrases / genetics
  • Killer Cells, Natural / cytology
  • Killer Cells, Natural / metabolism*
  • Lymphocyte Activation / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Recombination, Genetic*
  • Transgenes


  • I-kappa B Kinase
  • Cre recombinase
  • Integrases
  • Granzymes
  • Gzmb protein, mouse