Despite their identification several years ago, molecular identity and developmental relation between human ILC1 and NK cells, comprising group 1 ILCs, is still elusive. To unravel their connection, thorough transcriptional, epigenetic, and functional characterization was performed from umbilical cord blood (CB). Unexpectedly, ILC1-like cells lacked Tbet expression and failed to produce IFNγ. Moreover, in contrast to previously described ILC1 subsets they could be efficiently differentiated into NK cells. These were characterized by highly diversified KIR repertoires including late stage NKG2A-KIR+ effector cells that are commonly not generated from previously known NK cell progenitor sources. This property was dependent on stroma cell-derived Notch ligands. The frequency of the novel ILC1-like NK cell progenitor (NKP) significantly declined in CB from early to late gestational age. The study supports a model in which circulating fetal ILC1-like NKPs travel to secondary lymphoid tissues to initiate the formation of diversified NK cell repertoires after birth.
Keywords: ILC1; Innate lymphoid cells; KIR; NK cells; human; immunology; inflammation; neonatal.
© 2020, Bennstein et al.