Critical Role of CD2 Co-stimulation in Adaptive Natural Killer Cell Responses Revealed in NKG2C-Deficient Humans.
ABSTRACT: Infection by human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) leads to NKG2C-driven expansion of adaptive natural killer (NK) cells, contributing to host defense. However, approximately 4% of all humans carry a homozygous deletion of the gene that encodes NKG2C (NKG2C(-/-)). Assessment of NK cell repertoires in 60 NKG2C(-/-) donors revealed a broad range of NK cell populations displaying characteristic footprints of adaptive NK cells, including a terminally differentiated phenotype, functional reprogramming, and epigenetic remodeling of the interferon (IFN)-? promoter. We found that both NKG2C(-) and NKG2C(+) adaptive NK cells expressed high levels of CD2, which synergistically enhanced ERK and S6RP phosphorylation following CD16 ligation. Notably, CD2 co-stimulation was critical for the ability of adaptive NK cells to respond to antibody-coated target cells. These results reveal an unexpected redundancy in the human NK cell response to HCMV and suggest that CD2 provides "signal 2" in antibody-driven adaptive NK cell responses.
Project description:Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection is the most common cause of congenital viral infections and a major source of morbidity and mortality after organ transplantation. NK cells are pivotal effector cells in the innate defense against CMV. Recently, hallmarks of adaptive responses, such as memory-like features, have been recognized in NK cells. HCMV infection elicits the expansion of an NK cell subset carrying an activating receptor heterodimer, comprising CD94 and NKG2C (CD94/NKG2C), a response that resembles the clonal expansion of adaptive immune cells. Here, we determined that expansion of this NKG2C(+) subset and general NK cell recovery rely on signals derived from CD14(+) monocytes. In a coculture system, a subset of CD14(+) cells with inflammatory monocyte features produced IL-12 in response to HCMV-infected fibroblasts, and neutralization of IL-12 in this model substantially reduced CD25 upregulation and NKG2C(+) subset expansion. Finally, blockade of CD94/NKG2C on NK cells or silencing of the cognate ligand HLA-E in infected fibroblasts greatly impaired expansion of NKG2C(+) NK cells. Together, our results reveal that IL-12, CD14(+) cells, and the CD94/NKG2C/HLA-E axis are critical for the expansion of NKG2C(+) NK cells in response to HCMV infection. Moreover, strategies targeting the NKG2C(+) NK cell subset have the potential to be exploited in NK cell-based intervention strategies against viral infections and cancer.
Project description:Natural killer (NK) cells are important players in the immune defense against viral infections. The contribution of activating killer immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs) and CD94/NKG2C in regulating anti-viral responses has recently emerged. Thus, in the hematopoietic stem cell transplantation setting, the presence of donor activating KIRs (aKIRs) may protect against viral infections, while in HIV-infected individuals, KIR3DS1, in combination with HLA-Bw4-I80, results in reduction of viral progression. Since, studies have been performed mainly at the genetic or transcriptional level, the effective size, the function, and the "licensing" status of NK cells expressing aKIRs, as well as the nature of their viral ligands, require further investigation. Certain viral infections, mainly due to Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), can deeply influence the NK cell development and function by inducing a marked expansion of mature NKG2C(+) NK cells expressing self-activating KIRs. This suggests that NKG2C and/or aKIRs are involved in the selective proliferation of this subset. The persistent, HCMV-induced, imprinting suggests that NK cells may display unexpected adaptive immune traits. The role of aKIRs and NKG2C in regulating NK cell responses and promoting a memory-like response to certain viruses is discussed.
Project description:Natural killer (NK) cells play a dual role in the defense against viral pathogens by directly lysing infected cells as well as by regulating anti-viral T cell immunity. Infection by human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) promotes a persistent expansion of NKG2C+ adaptive NK cells which have been shown to display enhanced antibody-dependent responses against infected targets and associated to viral control in transplanted patients. Based on gene expression data showing increased transcription of CIITA and several genes related to the MHC class II pathway in adaptive NK cells, we explored their putative capacity for antigen presentation to CD4+ T cells. Phenotypic analysis confirmed a preferential steady-state expression of HLA-DR by circulating NKG2C+ adaptive NK cells in healthy individuals. Expression of HLA-DR in NKG2C+ adaptive NK cells was variable and unrelated to the expression of activation (i.e., CD69 and CD25) or differentiation (i.e., FcR? chain, CD57) markers, remaining stable over time at the individual level. Incubation of purified NK cells with HCMV complexed with serum specific antibodies induced an up-regulation of surface HLA-DR concomitant to CD16 loss whereas no changes in CD80/CD86 co-stimulatory ligands were detected. In addition, surface CX3CR1 decreased upon antigen-loading while HLA-DR+ NK cells maintained a CCR7-, CXCR3<sup>low</sup> homing profile. Remarkably, HCMV-loaded purified NK cells activated autologous CD4+ T cells in an HLA-DR dependent manner. The fraction of T lymphocytes activated by antigen-loaded NK cells was smaller than that stimulated by monocyte-derived dendritic cells, corresponding to CD28-negative effector-memory CD4+ T cells with cytotoxic potential. Antigen presentation by NK cells activated a polyfunctional CD4+ T cell response characterized by degranulation (CD107a) and the secretion of Th1 cytokines (IFN? and TNF?). Overall, our data discloses the capacity of NKG2C+ adaptive NK cells to process and present HCMV antigens to memory CD4+ cytotoxic T cells, directly regulating their response to the viral infection.
Project description:In human natural killer (NK) cells, human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) has been shown to be a driving force capable of inducing the expansion of a highly differentiated NKG2C+CD57+ subset, persisting over time in both HCMV+ healthy subjects and umbilical cord blood transplantation (UCBT) recipients experiencing HCMV viral reactivation. In HCMV+ healthy subjects, such expanded NK-cells are characterized by epigenetic modifications that modulate their phenotypic and functional characteristics. In particular, an enhanced ADCC activity is detectable in NK cells lacking the signaling protein Fc?R?. Timing and mechanisms involved in the acquisition of HCMV-induced, adaptive-like features by NK cells are currently unknown. In this study, we investigated the de novo acquisition of several adaptive features in NK cells developing after UCBT by monitoring NK-cell differentiation for at least 2?years after transplant. In UCBT recipients experiencing HCMV reactivation, a rapid phenotypic reconfiguration occurred resulting in the expected expansion of CD56dim NKG2C+CD57+ NK cells. However, while certain HCMV-driven adaptive hallmarks, including high KIR, LILRB1, CD2 and low/negative NKG2A, Siglec-7, and CD161 expression, were acquired early after UCBT (namely by month 6), downregulation of the signaling protein Fc?R? was detected at a later time interval (i.e., by month 12). This feature characterized only a minor fraction of the HCMV-imprinted NKG2C+CD57+ CD56dim NK cell subset, while it was detectable in higher proportions of CD57+ NK cells lacking NKG2C. Interestingly, in patients developing a hyporesponsive CD56-CD16bright NK-cell subset, Fc?R? downregulation occurred in these cells earlier than in CD56dim NK cells. Our data suggest that the acquisition of a fully "adaptive" profile requires signals that may lack in UCBT recipients and/or longer time is needed to obtain a stable epigenetic reprogramming. On the other hand, we found that both HCMV-induced Fc?R?neg and Fc?R?+ NK cells from these patients, display similar CD107a degranulation and IFN-? production capabilities in response to different stimuli, thus indicating that the acquisition of specialized effector functions can be achieved before the "adaptation" to HCMV is completed. Our study provides new insights in the process leading to the generation of different adaptive NK-cell subsets and may contribute to develop new approaches for their employment as novel immunotherapeutic tools.
Project description:Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic and often progressive disorder with a heterogeneous presentation and frequent systemic manifestations. Several aspects like persistence in smoking habit, continuous exacerbations, alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency and inflammatory-immune response, are involved in the pathophysiology and progression of the disease. However, the role of natural killer (NK) cells remains controversial. Otherwise, human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection has been reported to induce an adaptive differentiation and expansion of an NK cell subset which carries the CD94/NKG2C receptor, which may contribute to an upset immune defense. For these reasons, our objective is to assess the distribution of NK cells and their subset in COPD patients and some of its phenotypes. METHODS:Peripheral blood samples were obtained from 66 COPD patients. HCMV serology and the proportions of total NK cells and the NKG2C+ and NKG2A+ subsets were evaluated by flow cytometry. The NKG2C genotype was also assessed. RESULTS:Eighty-eight per cent of COPD patients were HCMV(+), and the proportions of total NK cells were higher in patients with severe-very severe airway obstruction than in those with only mild-moderate involvement. There were no differences in the proportions of NKG2C+ cells between controls and COPD, either among COPD patients classified by severity of the disease. However, the percentage of NKG2C+ cells were higher in COPD patients with frequent exacerbations than in occasional exacerbators, and higher in cases with reduced lean mass (Fat free mass index) than in those with normal nutritional status. CONCLUSION:These results suggest a relationship between levels of NKG2C+ cells in COPD patients and clinical variables closely linked to a poor/worse prognosis.
Project description:Repetitive stimulation by persistent pathogens such as human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) induces the differentiation of natural killer (NK) cells. This maturation pathway is characterized by the acquisition of phenotypic markers, CD2, CD57, and NKG2C, and effector functions-a process regulated by Tim-3 and orchestrated by a complex network of transcriptional factors, involving T-bet, Eomes, Zeb2, promyelocytic leukemia zinc finger protein, and Foxo3. Here, we show that persistent immune activation during chronic viral co-infections (HCMV, hepatitis C virus, and HIV) interferes with the functional phenotype of NK cells by modulating the Tim-3 pathway; a decrease in Tim-3 expression combined with the acquisition of inhibitory receptors skewed NK cells toward an exhausted and cytotoxic phenotype in an inflammatory environment during chronic HIV infection. A better understanding of the mechanisms underlying NK cell differentiation could aid the identification of new immunological targets for checkpoint blockade therapies in a manner that is relevant to chronic infection and cancer.
Project description:Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection promotes the differentiation and persistent expansion of a mature NK cell subset, which displays high surface levels of the activating CD94/NKG2C NK cell receptor, together with additional distinctive phenotypic and functional features. The mechanisms underlying the development of adaptive NK cells remain uncertain but some observations support the involvement of a cognate interaction of CD94/NKG2C with ligand(s) displayed by HCMV-infected cells. To approach this issue, the heterodimer and its adaptor (DAP12) were expressed in the human Jurkat leukemia T cell line; signaling was detected by transfection of a reporter plasmid encoding for Luciferase (Luc) under NFAT/AP1-dependent control. Engagement of the receptor by solid-phase bound CD94- or NKG2C-specific monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) triggered Luc expression. Moreover, reporter activation was detectable upon interaction with HLA-E+ 721.221 (.221-AEH) cells, as well as with 721.221 cells incubated with synthetic peptides, which stabilized surface expression of endogenous HLA-E; the response was specifically antagonized by soluble NKG2C- and HLA-E-specific mAbs. By contrast, activation of Jurkat-NKG2C+ was undetectable upon interaction with Human Fetal Foreskin Fibroblasts (HFFF) infected with HCMV laboratory strains (i.e., AD169, Towne), regardless of their differential ability to preserve surface HLA-E expression. On the other hand, infection with two clinical isolates or with the endotheliotropic TB40/E strain triggered Jurkat-NKG2C+ activation; yet, this response was not inhibited by blocking mAbs and was independent of CD94/NKG2C expression. The results are discussed in the framework of previous observations supporting the hypothetical existence of specific ligand(s) for CD94/NKG2C in HCMV-infected cells.
Project description:Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) co-infection is highly prevalent within HIV-1 cohorts and is an important cofactor in driving ongoing immune activation, even during effective antiretroviral treatment. HCMV infection has recently been associated with expansion of adaptive-like natural killer (NK) cells, which harbor epigenetic alterations that impact on their cellular function and phenotype. The influence of HCMV co-infection on the considerable heterogeneity among NK cells and their functional responses to different stimuli was assessed in a cohort of HIV-1-infected individuals sampled during different stages of infection, compared with healthy subjects stratified according to HCMV serostatus. Our data demonstrate a reshaping of the NK cell pool in HIV-1 infection of HCMV-seropositive individuals, with an accentuated peripheral transition of CD56dim NK cells toward a mature CD57+ CD85j+ NKG2C+ NKG2A- phenotype. Lack of PLZF further distinguishes adaptive NK cells from other NK cells expressing CD57 or NKG2C. PLZF- NK cells from HIV-infected individuals had high expression of CD2, were Siglec-7 negative and exhibited downregulation of key signaling molecules, SYK and Fc?RI-?, overwhelmingly displaying features of adaptive NK cells that correlated with HCMV serum Ab levels. Notably this adaptive-like signature was detected during early HIV-1 infection and persisted during treatment. Adaptive-like NK cell subsets in HIV-1-infected individuals displayed enhanced IFN-? production following Fc receptor triggering compared with their conventional NK cell counterparts, and their ability to produce TNF-? and degranulate was preserved. Together, these data suggest that HMCV infection/reactivation, a hallmark of HIV-1 infection, plays a role in driving a relative expansion of NK cells with adaptive features during HIV-1 infection. The identification of selective NK subsets with retained effector activity in HIV-1-infected subjects raises the possibility of developing therapeutic strategies that exploit specific NK subpopulations to achieve better HIV-1 control.
Project description:Adaptive natural killer (NK) cell responses to human cytomegalovirus infection are characterized by the expansion of NKG2C(+) NK cells expressing self-specific inhibitory killer-cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs). Here, we set out to study the HLA class I dependency of such NKG2C(+) NK cell expansions. We demonstrate the expansion of NKG2C(+) NK cells in patients with transporter associated with antigen presentation (TAP) deficiency, who express less than 10% of normal HLA class I levels. In contrast to normal individuals, expanded NKG2C(+) NK cell populations in TAP-deficient patients display a polyclonal KIR profile and remain hyporesponsive to HLA class I-negative target cells. Nonetheless, agonistic stimulation of NKG2C on NK cells from TAP-deficient patients yielded significant responses in terms of degranulation and cytokine production. Thus, while interactions with self-HLA class I molecules likely shape the KIR repertoire of expanding NKG2C(+) NK cells during adaptive NK cell responses in normal individuals, they are not a prerequisite for NKG2C(+) NK cell expansions to occur. The emergence of NKG2C-responsive adaptive NK cells in TAP-deficient patients may contribute to antiviral immunity and potentially explain these patients' low incidence of severe viral infections.
Project description:Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) has been recently related with a lower susceptibility to multiple sclerosis (MS). HCMV promotes an adaptive development of NK cells bearing the CD94/NKG2C receptor with a characteristic phenotypic and functional profile. NK cells are proposed to play an immunoregulatory role in MS, and expansion of the NKG2C(+) subset was recently associated with reduced disability progression. To further explore this issue, additional adaptive NK cell markers, i.e., downregulation of Fc?RI? chain (FcR?) and PLZF transcription factor, as well as antibody-dependent NK cell activation were assessed in controls and MS patients considering HCMV serology and clinical features. In line with previous reports, increased proportions of NKG2C(+), FcR?(-), and PLZF(-) CD56dim NK cells were found in HCMV(+) cases. However, PLZF(-) NK cells were detected uncoupled from other adaptive markers within the CD56bright subset from HCMV(+) cases and among CD56dim NK cells from HCMV(-) MS patients, suggesting an additional effect of HCMV-independent factors in PLZF downregulation. Interferon-? therapy was associated with lower proportions of FcR?(-) CD56dim NK cells in HCMV(+) and increased PLZF(-) CD56bright NK cells in HCMV(-) patients, pointing out to an influence of the cytokine on the expression of adaptive NK cell-associated markers. In addition, proportions of NKG2C(+) and FcR?(-) NK cells differed in progressive MS patients as compared to controls and other clinical forms. Remarkably, an adaptive NK cell phenotype did not directly correlate with enhanced antibody-triggered degranulation and TNF? production in MS in contrast to controls. Altogether, our results provide novel insights into the putative influence of HCMV and adaptive NK cells in MS.