CX3CR1-dependent recruitment of mature NK cells into the central nervous system contributes to control autoimmune neuroinflammation

Eur J Immunol. 2016 Aug;46(8):1984-96. doi: 10.1002/eji.201546194. Epub 2016 Jul 14.


Fractalkine receptor (CX3CR1)-deficient mice develop very severe experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), associated with impaired NK cell recruitment into the CNS. Yet, the precise implications of NK cells in autoimmune neuroinflammation remain elusive. Here, we investigated the pattern of NK cell mobilization and the contribution of CX3CR1 to NK cell dynamics in the EAE. We show that in both wild-type and CX3CR1-deficient EAE mice, NK cells are mobilized from the periphery and accumulate in the inflamed CNS. However, in CX3CR1-deficient mice, the infiltrated NK cells displayed an immature phenotype contrasting with the mature infiltrates in WT mice. This shift in the immature/mature CNS ratio contributes to EAE exacerbation in CX3CR1-deficient mice, since transfer of mature WT NK cells prior to immunization exerted a protective effect and normalized the CNS NK cell ratio. Moreover, mature CD11b(+) NK cells show higher degranulation in the presence of autoreactive 2D2 transgenic CD4(+) T cells and kill these autoreactive cells more efficiently than the immature CD11b(-) fraction. Together, these data suggest a protective role of mature NK cells in EAE, possibly through direct modulation of T cells inside the CNS, and demonstrate that mature and immature NK cells are recruited into the CNS by distinct chemotactic signals.

Keywords: CX3CR1; Chemokines; EAE; NK cells; Neuroinflammation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CX3C Chemokine Receptor 1
  • Central Nervous System / immunology*
  • Chemokines / immunology*
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / immunology*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Receptors, Chemokine / genetics*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • CX3C Chemokine Receptor 1
  • Chemokines
  • Cx3cr1 protein, mouse
  • Receptors, Chemokine