Infection induces tissue-resident memory NK cells that safeguard tissue health

Immunity. 2023 Mar 14;56(3):531-546.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2023.01.016. Epub 2023 Feb 10.


Tissue health is dictated by the capacity to respond to perturbations and then return to homeostasis. Mechanisms that initiate, maintain, and regulate immune responses in tissues are therefore essential. Adaptive immunity plays a key role in these responses, with memory and tissue residency being cardinal features. A corresponding role for innate cells is unknown. Here, we have identified a population of innate lymphocytes that we term tissue-resident memory-like natural killer (NKRM) cells. In response to murine cytomegalovirus infection, we show that circulating NK cells were recruited in a CX3CR1-dependent manner to the salivary glands where they formed NKRM cells, a long-lived, tissue-resident population that prevented autoimmunity via TRAIL-dependent elimination of CD4+ T cells. Thus, NK cells develop adaptive-like features, including long-term residency in non-lymphoid tissues, to modulate inflammation, restore immune equilibrium, and preserve tissue health. Modulating the functions of NKRM cells may provide additional strategies to treat inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

Keywords: CD4 T cells; Sjogren's syndrome; autoimmunity; cytomegalovirus; immune regulation; inflammation; memory; natural killer cells; tissue residency; viral infection.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity
  • Animals
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Killer Cells, Natural
  • Mice
  • Muromegalovirus*
  • T-Lymphocytes