Natural killer T-cell autoreactivity leads to a specialized activation state

X Wang, X Chen, L Rodenkirch, W Simonson, S Wernimont, RM Ndonye, Natacha Veerapen, D Gibson, AR Howell, Gurdyal Besra, GF Painter, A Huttenlocher, JE Gumperz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

35 Citations (Scopus)


Natural killer T (NKT) cells are innate-like T cells that recognize specific microbial antigens and also display autoreactivity to self-antigens. The nature of NKT-cell autoreactive activation remains poorly understood. We show here that the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway is operative during human NKT-cell autoreactive activation, but calcium signaling is severely impaired. This results in a response that is biased toward granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) secretion because this cytokine requires extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) signaling but is not highly calcium dependent, whereas interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma), interleukin (IL)-4, and IL-2 production are minimal. Autoreactive activation was associated with reduced migration velocity but did not induce arrest; thus, NKT cells retained the ability to survey antigen presenting cells (APCs). IL-12 and IL-18 stimulated autoreactively activated NKT cells to secrete IFN-gamma, and this was mediated by Janus kinase-signal transducers and activators of transcription (JAK-STAT)-dependent signaling without induction of calcium flux. This pathway did not require concurrent contact with CD1d(+) APCs but was strictly dependent on preceding autoreactive stimulation that induced ERK activation. In contrast, NKT-cell responses to the glycolipid antigen alpha-galactosyl ceramide (alpha-GalCer) were dampened by prior autoreactive activation. These results show that NKT-cell autoreactivity induces restricted cytokine secretion and leads to altered basal activation that potentiates innate responsiveness to costimulatory cytokines while modulating sensitivity to foreign antigens.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4128-4138
Number of pages11
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2008


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