Natural killer T cells: a potent cytokine-producing cell population

Eur Cytokine Netw. 1997 Sep;8(3):229-37.


Natural killer (NK) T cells constitute a subset of TCRalphabeta+ T lymphocytes characterized by natural killer surface receptor expression as well as by a restricted TCR repertoire. This population is capable both of secreting several cytokines, especially IL-4 and IFN-gamma, shortly after stimulation and of killing target cells via Fas/FasL interactions. The cytokines present in the microenvironment of NK T cells play a pivotal role in their potential immunoregulatory functions which are exerted through their ability to induce apoptosis and to modulate the development of Th1 or Th2 cells. Recent reports concerning the physiological roles of the NK T cell population will be discussed in this review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte / metabolism
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis*
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-4 / biosynthesis
  • Killer Cells, Natural / classification
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • Th1 Cells / immunology
  • Th2 Cells / immunology


  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte
  • Cytokines
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta
  • Interleukin-4
  • Interferon-gamma