The CD57 antigen (alternatively HNK-1, LEU-7, or L2) is routinely used to identify terminally differentiated 'senescent' cells with reduced proliferative capacity and altered functional properties. In this article, we review current understanding of the attributes of CD57-expressing T-cells and NK cells in both health and disease and discuss how this marker can inform researchers about their likely functions in human blood and tissues in vivo. While CD57 expression on human lymphocytes indicates an inability to proliferate, these cells also display high cytotoxic potential, and CD57(pos) NK cells exhibit both memory-like features and potent effector functions. Accordingly, frequencies of CD57-expressing cells in blood and tissues have been correlated with clinical prognosis in chronic infections or various cancers and with human aging. Functional modulation of senescent CD57(pos) T-cells and mature CD57(pos) NK cells may therefore represent innovative strategies for protection against human immunological aging and/or various chronic diseases.
Keywords: CD57; KLRG1; Memory NK cells; NK maturation; NKG2C; Senescence.