Characterization of a human cell line (NK-92) with phenotypical and functional characteristics of activated natural killer cells

Leukemia. 1994 Apr;8(4):652-8.


The cell line described here was established for a 50-year-old male patient with rapidly progressive non-Hodgkin's lymphoma whose marrow was diffusely infiltrated with large granular lymphocytes (LGL). Immunophenotyping of marrow blasts and peripheral lymphocytes was positive for CD56, CD2 and CD7, and negative for CD3. Cytotoxicity of peripheral blood mononuclear cells at an effector: target (E:T) cell ratio of 50:1 was 79% against K562 cells and 48% against Daudi cells. To establish the line, cells from the peripheral blood were placed into enriched alpha medium containing 12.5% fetal calf serum, 12.5% horse serum, 10(-4) M beta-mercaptoethanol and 10(-6) M hydrocortisone. Growth of the line (termed NK-92) is dependent on the presence of recombinant IL-2 and a dose as low as 10 U/ml is sufficient to maintain proliferation. Conversely, cells die within 72 h when deprived of IL-2; IL-7 and IL-12 do not maintain long-term growth, although IL-7 induces short-term proliferation measured by 3H-thymidine incorporation. None of the other cytokines tested (IL-1 alpha, IL-6, TNF-alpha, IFN-alpha, IFN-gamma) supported growth of NK-92 cells which have the following characteristics: surface marker positive for CD2, CD7, CD11a, CD28, CD45, CD54, CD56bright; surface marker negative for CD1, CD3, CD4, CD5, CD8, CD10, CD14, CD16, CD19, CD20, CD23, CD34, HLA-DR. DNA analysis showed germline configuration for T-cell receptor beta and gamma genes. CD25 (p55 IL-2 receptor) is expressed on about 50% of all cells when tested at 100 U/ml of IL-2 and its expression correlates inversely with the IL-2 concentration. The p75 IL-2 receptor is expressed on about half of the cells at low density irrespective of the IL-2 concentration. NK-92 cells kill both K562 and Daudi cells very effectively in a 4 h51-chromium release assay (84 and 86% respectively, at an E:T cell ratio of 5:1). The cell line described here thus displays characteristics of activated NK-cells and could be a valuable tool to study their biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD / analysis
  • Antigens, Surface / analysis
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cell Line / chemistry
  • Cell Line / pathology
  • Cell Line / ultrastructure
  • Cytokines / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-2 / administration & dosage
  • Killer Cells, Natural / chemistry
  • Killer Cells, Natural / pathology*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / ultrastructure
  • Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Antigens, CD
  • Antigens, Surface
  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-2