Regulation of adaptive immunity by natural killer cells

Immunol Res. 1998;17(3):303-12. doi: 10.1007/BF02786453.


Natural killer (NK) cells are well recognized as cytolytic effector cells of the innate immune system. In the past several years, the structure and function of NK cell receptors for the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules and other ligands have been the subject of extensive studies. These studies. These studies have focused largely on the mechanisms of target cell recognition for lysis. Another aspect of NK cell function that seems to be underappreciated is their role in immune regulation. Since NK cells produce a number of immunologically relevant cytokines, it has been suggested that these cells may modulate the development of the adaptive immune response. But, is it the only mechanism by which NK cells interact with cells involved in the induction of antigen-specific responses? This article reviews some older and more recent studies and attempts to place NK cells in the context of potent immune regulators of T cell responses.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • B-Lymphocytes / physiology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / physiology
  • CD56 Antigen / immunology
  • CD56 Antigen / physiology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / physiology
  • Cell Communication / immunology
  • Cell Migration Inhibition
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Active / immunology
  • Immunity, Active / physiology*
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology
  • Immunity, Innate / physiology*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / physiology
  • Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*
  • Lymphocyte Subsets / physiology
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / physiology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / physiology


  • CD56 Antigen