NKT cells direct monocytes into a DC differentiation pathway

S Hegde, X Chen, JM Keaton, Faye Reddington, Gurdyal Besra, JE Gumperz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

50 Citations (Scopus)


Monocytes can differentiate into macrophages or dendritic cells (DCs). The processes that promote their differentiation along one pathway rather than the other remain unknown. NKT cells are regulatory T cells that respond functionally to self and foreign antigens presented by CD1d molecules. Hence, in addition to contributing to antimicrobial responses, they may carry out autoreactively activated functions when there is no infectious challenge. However, the immunological consequences of NKT cell autoreactivity remain poorly understood. We show here that human NKT cells direct monocytes to differentiate into immature DCs. The ability to induce monocyte differentiation was CD1d-dependent and appeared specific to NKT cells. Addition of exogenous antigens or costimulation from IL-2 was not required but could enhance the effect. DC differentiation was a result of NKT cell secretion of GM-CSF and IL-13, cytokines that were produced by the NKT cells upon autoreactive activation by monocytes. NKT cells within PBMC samples produced GM-CSF and IL-13 upon exposure to autologous monocytes directly ex vivo, providing evidence that such NKT cell-autoreactive responses can occur in vivo. These results show that when NKT cells are activated by autologous monocytes, they are capable of providing factors that specifically direct monocyte differentiation into immature DCs. Thus, autoreactively activated NKT cells may contribute to the maintenance of the immature DC population, and microbial infection or inflammatory conditions that activate NKT cells further could stimulate them to promote an increased rate of DC differentiation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1224-1235
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Leukocyte Biology
Issue number5
Early online date13 Feb 2007
Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2007


  • autoreactive
  • GM-CSF
  • IL-13


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