Long-term exposure to cigarette smoke (CS) can have deleterious effects on lung epithelial cells including cell death and the initiation of inflammatory responses. CS-induced cell injury can elaborate cell surface signals and cellular byproducts that stimulate immune system surveillance. Our previous work has shown that the expression of ligands for the cytotoxic lymphocyte activating receptor NKG2D is enhanced in patients with COPD and that the induction of these ligands in a mouse model can replicate COPD pathologies. Here, we extend these findings to demonstrate a role for the NKG2D receptor in CS-induced pathophysiology and provide evidence linking nucleic acid-sensing endosomal toll-like receptor (TLR) signaling to COPD pathology through NKG2D activation. Specifically, we show that mice deficient in NKG2D exhibit attenuated pulmonary inflammation and airspace enlargement in a model of CS-induced emphysema. Additionally, we show that CS exposure induces the release of free nucleic acids in the bronchoalveolar lavage and that direct exposure of mouse lung epithelial cells to cigarette smoke extract similarly induces functional nucleic acids as assessed by TLR3, 7, and 9 reporter cell lines. We demonstrate that exposure of mouse lung epithelial cells to TLR ligands stimulates the surface expression of RAET1, a ligand for NKG2D, and that mice deficient in TLR3/7/9 receptor signaling do not exhibit CS-induced NK cell hyperresponsiveness and airspace enlargement. The findings indicate that CS-induced airway injury stimulates TLR signaling by endogenous nucleic acids leading to elevated NKG2D ligand expression. Activation of these pathways plays a major role in the altered NK cell function, pulmonary inflammation and remodeling related to long-term CS exposure.
The Natural Killer Group 2D (NKG2D) receptor plays an important role in protecting the host from infections and cancer. By recognizing ligands induced on infected or tumor cells, NKG2D modulates lymphocyte activation and promotes immunity to eliminate ligand-expressing cells. Because these ligands are not widely expressed on healthy adult tissue, NKG2D ligands may present a useful target for immunotherapeutic approaches in cancer. Novel therapies targeting NKG2D ligands for the treatment of cancer have shown preclinical success and are poised to enter into clinical trials. In this review, the NKG2D receptor and its ligands are discussed in the context of cancer, infection, and autoimmunity. In addition, therapies targeting NKG2D ligands in cancer are also reviewed.
immunotherapy; MICA; Rae-1; NK cells; CD8+ T cells
The interplay between the immune system and abnormal metabolic conditions sustains and propagates a vicious feedback cycle of chronic inflammation and metabolic dysfunction that is critical for atherosclerotic progression. It is well established that abnormal metabolic conditions, such as dyslipidemia and hyperglycemia, cause various cellular stress responses that induce tissue inflammation and immune cell activation, which in turn exacerbate the metabolic dysfunction. However, molecular events linking these processes are not well understood.
Methods and Results
Tissues and organs of humans and mice with hyperglycemia and hyperlipidemia were examined for expression of ligands for NKG2D, a potent immune activating receptor expressed by several types of immune cells, and the role of NKG2D in atherosclerosis and metabolic diseases was probed using mice lacking NKG2D or by blocking NKG2D with monoclonal antibodies. NKG2D ligands were upregulated in multiple organs, particularly atherosclerotic aortae and inflamed livers. Ligand upregulation was induced in vitro by abnormal metabolites associated with metabolic dysfunctions. Using ApoE-/- mouse models we demonstrated that preventing NKG2D functions resulted in a dramatic reduction in plaque formation, suppressed systemic and organ inflammation mediated by multiple immune cell types, and alleviated abnormal metabolic conditions.
The NKG2D/ligand interaction is a critical molecular link in the vicious cycle of chronic inflammation and metabolic dysfunction that promotes atherosclerosis and might be a useful target for therapeutic intervention in the disease.
NKG2D; atherosclerosis; immune activation; inflammation; metabolic dysfunction
NKG2D is a potent activating receptor expressed on NK cells, NKT cells, γδ T cells, and CD8 T cells. NKG2D recognizes cell surface molecules structurally related to MHC class I proteins induced by infection or other type of cellular stress. The engagement of NKG2D leads to NK cell cytotoxicity and cytokine secretion or to a co-stimulation of CD8 T cells. Both human and mouse cytomegalovirus (CMV) have evolved numerous mechanisms to evade NKG2D-mediated immune response. This review describes the mechanisms used by CMV to inhibit NKG2D ligand expression and the recent advances in exploiting the NKG2D recognition pathway for mounting efficient and long-lasting immune response.
NKG2D; cytomegalovirus; immune evasion
NKG2D is one of the most intensively studied immune receptors of the past decade. Its unique binding and signaling properties, expression pattern, and functions have been attracting much interest within the field due to its potent antiviral and anti-tumor properties. As an activating receptor, NKG2D is expressed on cells of the innate and adaptive immune system. It recognizes stress-induced MHC class I-like ligands and acts as a molecular sensor for cells jeopardized by viral infections or DNA damage. Although the activating functions of NKG2D have been well documented, recent analysis of NKG2D-deficient mice suggests that this receptor may have a regulatory role during NK cell development. In this review, we will revisit known aspects of NKG2D functions and present new insights in the proposed influence of this molecule on hematopoietic differentiation.
NKG2D; NKG2D ligands; NK cell development; Viruses; Tumors; Autoimmunity
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a major cause of nosocomial respiratory infections. The eradication of P. aeruginosa from the lung involves the orchestrated actions of the pulmonary epithelium and both resident and recruited immune cells. The NKG2D receptor is constitutively expressed on the surface of circulating and tissue-resident NK cells (and other cytotoxic lymphocytes), and is capable of controlling NK cell activation and production of cytokines such as IFN-γ via interactions with ligands expressed on the surface of stressed cells. Previously, we demonstrated that NKG2D mediates pulmonary clearance of P. aeruginosa. In the present study, we investigated the cellular and molecular mechanisms of NKG2D-mediated clearance of P. aeruginosa using a novel transgenic mouse model of doxycycline (DOX)-inducible conditional expression of NKG2D ligands (Raet1a) in pulmonary epithelial cells. NKG2D ligand expression in this model increased pulmonary clearance, cellular phagocytosis, and survival following P. aeruginosa respiratory infection. Additionally, NK cell sensitivity to ex vivo LPS stimulation was greater in lung cells isolated from naive transgenic mice administered DOX. We also showed that NK cells are the primary source of lymphocyte-derived IFN-γ in response to P. aeruginosa respiratory infection. Significantly, we demonstrated that NKG2D is critical to the non-redundant IFN-γ production by pulmonary NK cells following acute P. aeruginosa infection. These results represent the principal report of NKG2D-mediated activation of lung NK cells following respiratory infection with an opportunistic pathogen and further establish the importance of NKG2D in the host response against P. aeruginosa respiratory infection.
Natural killer cells; bacterial; lung; transgenic/knockout mice
NKG2D is a receptor expressed by natural killer (NK) cells and subsets of T lymphocytes. On NK cells, NKG2D functions as a stimulatory receptor that induces effector functions. We cloned and expressed two rat NKG2D ligands, both members of the RAE1 family, RAE1L and RRLT, and demonstrate that these ligands can induce IFNγ secretion and cytotoxicity by rat NK cells. To examine changes in expression of NKG2D and the NKG2D ligands RAE1L and RRLT after transplantation, we used a DALewis rat model of liver transplantation. NKG2D expression was significantly increased in allogeneic liver grafts by day seven post-transplant. Ligands of NKG2D, absent in normal liver, were readily detected in both syngeneic and allogeneic liver grafts by day one post-transplant. By day seven post-transplant, hepatocyte RAE1L and RRLT expression was significantly and specifically increased in liver allografts. In contrast to acute rejection that develops in the DALewis model, transplantation of Lewis livers into DA recipients (LewisDA) results in spontaneous tolerance. Interestingly, expression of RAE1L and RRLT is low in LewisDA liver allografts, but significantly increased in rejecting DALewis liver allografts. In conclusion, our results suggest that expression of NKG2D ligands may be important in allograft rejection.
NK cells; transplant; liver
The NKG2D receptor is expressed on the surface of NK, T, and macrophage lineage cells and plays an important role in antiviral and antitumor immunity. To evade NKG2D recognition, herpesviruses block the expression of NKG2D ligands on the surface of infected cells using a diverse repertoire of sabotage methods. Cowpox and monkeypox viruses have taken an alternate approach by encoding a soluble NKG2D ligand, the orthopoxvirus major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I-like protein (OMCP), which can block NKG2D-mediated cytotoxicity. This approach has the advantage of targeting a single conserved receptor instead of numerous host ligands that exhibit significant sequence diversity. Here, we show that OMCP binds the NKG2D homodimer as a monomer and competitively blocks host ligand engagement. We have also determined the 2.25-Å-resolution crystal structure of OMCP from the cowpox virus Brighton Red strain, revealing a truncated MHC class I-like platform domain consisting of a beta sheet flanked with two antiparallel alpha helices. OMCP is generally similar in structure to known host NKG2D ligands but has notable variations in regions typically used to engage NKG2D. Additionally, the determinants responsible for the 14-fold-higher affinity of OMCP for human than for murine NKG2D were mapped to a single loop in the NKG2D ligand-binding pocket.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lethal progressive lung disease culminating in permanent airway obstruction and alveolar enlargement. Previous studies suggest CTL involvement in COPD progression; however, their precise role remains unknown. Here, we investigated whether the CTL activation receptor NK cell group 2D (NKG2D) contributes to the development of COPD. Using primary murine lung epithelium isolated from mice chronically exposed to cigarette smoke and cultured epithelial cells exposed to cigarette smoke extract in vitro, we demonstrated induced expression of the NKG2D ligand retinoic acid early transcript 1 (RAET1) as well as NKG2D-mediated cytotoxicity. Furthermore, a genetic model of inducible RAET1 expression on mouse pulmonary epithelial cells yielded a severe emphysematous phenotype characterized by epithelial apoptosis and increased CTL activation, which was reversed by blocking NKG2D activation. We also assessed whether NKG2D ligand expression corresponded with pulmonary disease in human patients by staining airway and peripheral lung tissues from never smokers, smokers with normal lung function, and current and former smokers with COPD. NKG2D ligand expression was independent of NKG2D receptor expression in COPD patients, demonstrating that ligand expression is the limiting factor in CTL activation. These results demonstrate that aberrant, persistent NKG2D ligand expression in the pulmonary epithelium contributes to the development of COPD pathologies.
Cervical cancer represents the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women worldwide. Natural killer (NK) cells play an important role in the defense against viruses, intracellular bacteria and tumors. NKG2D, an activating receptor on NK cells, recognizes MHC class I chain-related molecules, such as MICA/B and members of the ULBP/RAET1 family. Tumor-derived soluble NKG2D-ligands have been shown to down-modulate the expression of NKG2D on NK cells. In addition to the down-modulation induced by soluble NKG2D-ligands, it has recently been described that persistent cell-cell contact can also down-modulate NKG2D expression. The goal of this study was to determine whether the NKG2D receptor is down-modulated by cell-cell contact with cervical cancer cells and whether this down-modulation might be associated with changes in NK cell activity.
We demonstrate that NKG2D expressed on NKL cells is down-modulated by direct cell contact with cervical cancer cell lines HeLa, SiHa, and C33A, but not with non-tumorigenic keratinocytes (HaCaT). Moreover, this down-modulation had functional implications. We found expression of NKG2D-ligands in all cervical cancer cell lines, but the patterns of ligand distribution were different in each cell line. Cervical cancer cell lines co-cultured with NKL cells or fresh NK cells induced a marked diminution of NKG2D expression on NKL cells. Additionally, the cytotoxic activity of NKL cells against K562 targets was compromised after co-culture with HeLa and SiHa cells, while co-culture with C33A increased the cytotoxic activity of the NKL cells.
Our results suggest that differential expression of NKG2D-ligands in cervical cancer cell lines might be associated with the down-modulation of NKG2D, as well as with changes in the cytotoxic activity of NKL cells after cell-cell contact with the tumor cells.
NK cells; NKG2D; MICA; MICB; ULBP; Cervical cancer
E2F transcription factors regulate expression of RAE-1 family NKG2D ligands in cancer cells and normal proliferating cells to promote wound healing and immune recognition.
The NKG2D stimulatory receptor expressed by natural killer cells and T cell subsets recognizes cell surface ligands that are induced on transformed and infected cells and facilitate immune rejection of tumor cells. We demonstrate that expression of retinoic acid early inducible gene 1 (RAE-1) family NKG2D ligands in cancer cell lines and proliferating normal cells is coupled directly to cell cycle regulation. Raet1 genes are directly transcriptionally activated by E2F family transcription factors, which play a central role in regulating cell cycle entry. Induction of RAE-1 occurred in primary cell cultures, embryonic brain cells in vivo, and cells in healing skin wounds and, accordingly, wound healing was delayed in mice lacking NKG2D. Transcriptional activation by E2Fs is likely coordinated with posttranscriptional regulation by other stress responses. These findings suggest that cellular proliferation, as occurs in cancer cells but also other pathological conditions, is a key signal tied to immune reactions mediated by NKG2D-bearing lymphocytes.
The activating receptor, NKG2D, is expressed on a variety of immune effector cells and recognizes divergent families of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I–related ligands, including the MIC and ULBP proteins. Infection, stress, or transformation can induce NKG2D ligand expression, resulting in effector cell activation and killing of the ligand-expressing target cell. The human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) membrane glycoprotein, UL16, binds to three of the five known ligands for human NKG2D. UL16 is retained in the endoplasmic reticulum and cis-Golgi apparatus of cells and causes MICB to be similarly retained and stabilized within cells. Coexpression of UL16 markedly reduces cell surface levels of MICB, ULBP1, and ULBP2, and decreases susceptibility to natural killer cell–mediated cytotoxicity. Domain swapping experiments demonstrate that the transmembrane and cytoplasmic domains of UL16 are important for intracellular retention of UL16, whereas the ectodomain of UL16 participates in down-regulation of NKG2D ligands. The intracellular sequestration of NKG2D ligands by UL16 represents a novel HCMV immune evasion mechanism to add to the well-documented viral strategies directed against antigen presentation by classical MHC molecules.
ULBP; MIC; NKG2D; UL16; HCMV
Invariant NKT cells are important in the activation and regulation of immune responses. They can also function as CD1d-restricted killer cells. However, the role of activating innate NK cell receptors expressed on NKT cells in triggering cytolytic function is poorly characterized. Here, we initially confirmed that the cellular stress-ligand receptor NKG2D is expressed on CD4− NKT cells, whereas most CD4+ NKT cells lack this receptor. Interestingly, NKG2D+ NKT cells frequently expressed perforin, and both NKG2D and perforin localized at the site of contact with NKG2D ligand-expressing target cells. CD4− NKT cells degranulated in response to NKG2D engagement in a redirected activation assay independently of stimulation via their invariant TCR. NKT cells killed P815 cells coated with anti-NKG2D mAb and CD1d-negative K562 tumor target cells in an NKG2D-dependent manner. Furthermore, NKG2D engagement co-stimulated TCR-mediated NKT cell activation in response to endogenous CD1d-presented ligands or suboptimal levels of anti-CD3 triggering. These data indicate that the CD4− subset of human NKT cells can mediate direct lysis of target cells via NKG2D engagement independently of CD1d, and that NKG2D also functions as a co-stimulatory receptor in these cells. NKG2D thus plays both a direct and a co-stimulatory role in the activation of NKT cells.
CD1d; NKT cells; NK cells; Innate immunity
NKG2D is a potent activating receptor on NK cells which acts as a molecular sensor for stressed cells expressing NKG2D ligands such as infected or tumor transformed cells. Although NKG2D is expressed on NK cell precursors, its role in NK cell development is still not known. We have generated NKG2D-deficient mice by targeting the Klrk1 locus. Here we provide evidence for an important regulatory role of NKG2D in the development of NK cells. The absence of NKG2D causes faster division of NK cells, perturbation in size of some NK cell subpopulations and their augmented sensitivity to apoptosis. As expected, NKG2D−/− NK cells are less responsive to tumor targets expressing NKG2D ligands. NKG2D−/− mice, however, show an enhanced NK cell-mediated resistance to MCMV infection as a consequence of NK cell dysregulation. Altogether, these findings provide evidence for yet unknown regulatory function of NKG2D in NK cell physiology.
NKG2D-deficient mice; NKG2D; NK cells; NK cell development; proliferation; apoptosis; MCMV
The heterodimeric CD94/NKG2A receptor, expressed by mouse natural killer (NK) cells, transduces inhibitory signals upon recognition of its ligand, Qa-1b, a nonclassical major histocompatibility complex class Ib molecule. Here we clone and express two additional receptors, CD94/NKG2C and CD94/NKG2E, which we show also bind to Qa-1b. Within their extracellular carbohydrate recognition domains, NKG2C and NKG2E share extensive homology with NKG2A (93–95% amino acid similarity); however, NKG2C/E receptors differ from NKG2A in their cytoplasmic domains (only 33% similarity) and contain features that suggest that CD94/NKG2C and CD94/NKG2E may be activating receptors. We employ a novel blocking anti-NKG2 monoclonal antibody to provide the first direct evidence that CD94/NKG2 molecules are the only Qa-1b receptors on NK cells. Molecular analysis reveals that NKG2C and NKG2E messages are extensively alternatively spliced and ∼20-fold less abundant than NKG2A message in NK cells. The organization of the mouse Cd94/Nkg2 gene cluster, presented here, shows striking similarity with that of the human, arguing that the entire CD94/NKG2 receptor system is relatively primitive in origin. Analysis of synonymous substitution frequencies suggests that within a species, NKG2 genes may maintain similarities with each other by concerted evolution, possibly involving gene conversion–like events. These findings have implications for understanding NK cells and also raise new possibilities for the role of Qa-1 in immune responses.
CD94; NKG2; Qa-1; natural killer cell; MHC class I
The activation NKG2D receptor has been shown to play an important role in the control of experimental tumor growth and metastases expressing ligands for NKG2D; however, a function for this recognition pathway in host protection from de novo tumorigenesis has never been demonstrated. We show that neutralization of NKG2D enhances the sensitivity of wild-type (WT) C57BL/6 and BALB/c mice to methylcholanthrene (MCA)-induced fibrosarcoma. The importance of the NKG2D pathway was additionally illustrated in mice deficient for either IFN-γ or tumor necrosis factor–related apoptosis-inducing ligand, whereas mice depleted of natural killer cells, T cells, or deficient for perforin did not display any detectable NKG2D phenotype. Furthermore, IL-12 therapy preventing MCA-induced sarcoma formation was also largely dependent on the NKG2D pathway. Although NKG2D ligand expression was variable or absent on sarcomas emerging in WT mice, sarcomas derived from perforin-deficient mice were Rae-1+ and immunogenic when transferred into WT syngeneic mice. These findings suggest an important early role for the NKG2D in controlling and shaping tumor formation.
Understanding how hepatitis C virus (HCV) induces and circumvents the host's natural killer (NK) cell-mediated immunity is of critical importance in efforts to design effective therapeutics. We report here the decreased expression of the NKG2D activating receptor as a novel strategy adopted by HCV to evade NK-cell mediated responses. We show that chronic HCV infection is associated with expression of ligands for NKG2D, the MHC class I-related Chain (MIC) molecules, on hepatocytes. However, NKG2D expression is downmodulated on circulating NK cells, and consequently NK cell-mediated cytotoxic capacity and interferon-γ production are impaired. Using an endotoxin-free recombinant NS5A protein, we show that NS5A stimulation of monocytes through Toll-like Receptor 4 (TLR4) promotes p38- and PI3 kinase-dependent IL-10 production, while inhibiting IL-12 production. In turn, IL-10 triggers secretion of TGFβ which downmodulates NKG2D expression on NK cells, leading to their impaired effector functions. Moreover, culture supernatants of HCV JFH1 replicating Huh-7.5.1 cells reproduce the effect of recombinant NS5A on NKG2D downmodulation. Exogenous IL-15 can antagonize the TGFβ effect and restore normal NKG2D expression on NK cells. We conclude that NKG2D-dependent NK cell functions are modulated during chronic HCV infection, and demonstrate that this alteration can be prevented by exogenous IL-15, which could represent a meaningful adjuvant for therapeutic intervention.
Natural killer (NK) cells are part of the innate immune response against virus infection. Their activation is the net result of signals emanating from a panel of inhibitory and activating receptors, among which the NKG2D activating receptor plays a major role. NKG2D ligands, the MHC class I related Chain (MIC) molecules, are induced on HCV-infected hepatocytes. In this paper, we show that NKG2D expression is decreased on NK cells from chronically infected HCV patients. As a consequence, NK cell cytolytic and IFNγ-producing functions are impaired. We show that this phenomenon is mediated by TGFβ produced by monocytes upon stimulation by the non-structural HCV-NS5A protein. NS5A could bind to TLR4 on monocytes, thus inducing the production of IL-10 and TGFβ, while inhibiting the production of IL-12. We further showed that TLR4-dependent IL-10 production by monocytes upon NS5A stimulation was mediated through the p38 and PI3 kinase pathways. In addition, we demonstrated that IL-15 could inhibit the TGFβ-mediated effects on NKG2D expression and NK cell functions. Collectively, these results identify a new dampening signal used by HCV to subvert innate immune response, and may provide new insights into the design of new strategies to restore NK cell functions in chronic hepatitis C.
NK cells use NKG2D receptor to recognize ‘induced-self’. In apparent violation of the ‘missing-self’ hypothesis, NK cells stimulated through NKG2D can lyse target cells despite normal expression levels of MHC class I molecules. Although, ‘overriding’ of the inhibitory by the activating signals had been postulated the precise role of inhibitory Ly49 receptors on NKG2D-mediated activation has only started emerging. We propose that NKG2D-mediated activation is a function of ‘altering the balance’ in the signaling strength between the activating NKG2D and inhibiting Ly49 receptors. Balance in the signaling strength depends on the expression levels of activating ligands on the target cells. Qualitative and quantitative variations of MHC class I molecules expressed on the target cells also plays a major role in determining this ‘altered-balance’. Consequently, the nature of Ly49 receptors expressed on specific NK subsets determines the level of NKG2D-mediated NK cell activation. These observations provide a firm basis of ‘altered-balance’ in NK signaling and describe an active interplay between inhibitory Ly49 and activating NKG2D receptors.
Natural killer cells; NKG2D; H60; Ly49; Altered-balance
Cell surface NKG2D ligands (NKG2DL) bind to the activating NKG2D receptor present on NK cells and subsets of T cells, thus playing a role in initiating an immune response. We examined tumor expression and prognostic effect of NKG2DL in breast cancer patients.
Our study population (n = 677) consisted of all breast cancer patients primarily treated with surgery in our center between 1985 and 1994. Formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tumor tissue was immunohistochemically stained with antibodies directed against MIC-A/MIC-B (MIC-AB), ULBP-1, ULBP-2, ULBP-3, ULBP-4, and ULBP-5.
NKG2DL were frequently expressed by tumors (MIC-AB, 50% of the cases; ULBP-1, 90%; ULBP-2, 99%; ULBP-3, 100%; ULBP-4, 26%; ULBP-5, 90%) and often showed co-expression: MIC-AB and ULBP-4 (p = 0.043), ULBP-1 and ULBP-5 (p = 0.006), ULBP-4 and ULBP-5 (p < 0.001). MIC-AB (p = 0.001) and ULBP-2 (p = 0.006) expression resulted in a statistically significant longer relapse free period (RFP). Combined expression of these ligands showed to be an independent prognostic parameter for RFP (p < 0.001, HR 0.41). Combined expression of all ligands showed no associations with clinical outcome.
We demonstrated for the first time that NKG2DL are frequently expressed and often co-expressed in breast cancer. Expression of MIC-AB and ULBP-2 resulted in a statistically significant beneficial outcome concerning RFP with high discriminative power. Combination of all NKG2DL showed no additive or interactive effect of ligands on each other, suggesting that similar and co-operative functioning of all NKG2DL can not be assumed. Our observations suggest that among driving forces in breast cancer outcome are immune activation on one site and tumor immune escape on the other site.
ULBP; MIC; NKG2D ligand; breast cancer; immune evasion
Most myeloma tumor cells from patients express NKG2D ligands. We have reported the development of a chimeric NKG2D receptor (chNKG2D), which consists of the NKG2D receptor fused to the CD3ζ chain. T cells expressing this receptor kill and produce cytokines in response to NKG2D-ligand+ tumor cells. Therefore we investigated whether human chNKG2D T cells respond against human myeloma cells.
ChNKG2D T cells were generated from healthy donors and myeloma patients. The effector phase of chNKG2D T cells was analyzed by cell-surface marker expression and human myeloma cell lines were tested for expression of NKG2D ligands. Lysis of myeloma cell lines and cytokine secretion by chNKG2D T cells was determined. ChNKG2D T cells grown in serum-free media, or cyropreserved, were assessed for effector cell functions.
Myeloma cell lines expressed NKG2D ligands. ChNKG2D T cells from healthy donors and myeloma patients lysed myeloma cells, and secreted proinflammatory cytokines when cultured with myeloma cells or patient bone marrow but not with PBMCs or normal bone marrow. Lysis of myeloma cells was dependent on chNKG2D T cell expression of NKG2D and perforin. Additionally, chNKG2D T cells upregulated CD45RO, did not express CD57, and maintained expression of CD27, CD62L, and CCR7, indicating that the T cells were at an early effector stage. Finally, we showed that chNKG2D T cells generated with serum-free media, or when cryopreserved, maintained effector functions.
ChNKG2D T cells respond to human myeloma cells and can be generated using clinically applicable cell culture techniques.
Multiple Myeloma; NK cell; Cancer; Chimeric receptors; Immunotherapy
Immune recognition mediated by the activating receptor NKG2D plays an important role for the elimination of stressed cells, including tumors and virus-infected cells. On the other hand, the ligands for NKG2D can also be shed into the sera of cancer patients where they weaken the immune response by downmodulating the receptor on effector cells, mainly NK and T cells. Although both families of NKG2D-ligands, major histocompatibility complex class I-related chain (MIC) A/B and UL16 binding proteins (ULBPs), are related to MHC molecules and their expression is increased after stress, many differences are observed in terms of their biochemical properties and cell trafficking. In this paper, we summarize the variety of NKG2D-ligands and propose that selection pressure has driven evolution of diversity in their trafficking and shedding, but not receptor binding affinity. However, it is also possible to identify functional properties common to individual ULBP molecules and MICA/B alleles, but not generally conserved within the MIC or ULBP families. These characteristics likely represent examples of convergent evolution for efficient immune recognition, but are also attractive targets for pathogen immune evasion strategies. Categorization of NKG2D-ligands according to their biological features, rather than their genetic family, may help to achieve a better understanding of NKG2D-ligand association with disease.
innate immunity; NKG2D receptor; MICA/B; ULBP; shedding; exosomes; immune evasion
Natural killer (NK) cells are stimulated by ligands on virus-infected cells. We have recently demonstrated that NK cells respond to human immunodeficiency virus type-1 (HIV-1)-infected autologous T-cells, in part, through the recognition of ligands for the NK cell activating receptor NKG2D on the surface of the infected cells. Uninfected primary CD4pos T-cell blasts express little, if any, NKG2D ligands. In the present study we determined the mechanism through which ligands for NKG2D are induced on HIV-1-infected cells. Our studies reveal that expression of vpr is necessary and sufficient to elicit the expression of NKG2D ligands in the context of HIV-1 infection. Vpr specifically induces surface expression of the unique-long 16 binding proteins (ULBP)-1 and ULBP-2, but not ULBP-3, MHC class I-related chain molecules (MIC)-A or MIC-B. In these studies we also demonstrated that Vpr increases the level of ULBP-1 and ULBP-2 mRNA in primary CD4pos T-cell blasts. The presence of ULBP-1 and ULBP-2 on HIV-1 infected cells is dependent on the ability of Vpr to associate with a protein complex know as Cullin 4a (Cul4a)/damaged DNA binding protein 1 (DDB1) and Cul4a-associated factor-1(DCAF-1) E3 ubiquitin ligase (Cul4aDCAF-1). ULBP-1 and -2 expression by Vpr is also dependent on activation of the DNA damage sensor, ataxia telangiectasia and rad-3-related kinase (ATR). When T-cell blasts are infected with a vpr-deficient HIV-1, NK cells are impaired in killing the infected cells. Thus, HIV-1 Vpr actively triggers the expression of the ligands to the NK cell activation receptor.
Natural killer (NK) cells are part of the innate immune response against virus infection and cancer. Recently we demonstrated that ligands for the NK cell activation receptor, NKG2D, trigger NK cell-mediated response to infected cells. These ligands are expressed on HIV-1-infected cells and not on uninfected cells. Despite the observation that NKG2D ligands are expressed on infected cells, it is unclear how HIV-1 induces their expression. In the present study, we demonstrate that HIV induces the ligands of the NKG2D receptor through the viral gene product Vpr. Vpr triggers a DNA damage response in infected cells, which in turn, increases virus production. We also demonstrate that by blocking the activity of ATR, a major component in the DNA damage response, we were able to prevent NKG2D ligand expression. When Vpr was removed from the virus genome, NK cells lost their ability to lyse the HIV-infected cells. Thus, HIV-1 actively triggers NK cells through the activity of its viral gene product, Vpr.
Treatment of mice bearing established ovarian tumors with T cells expressing chimeric NKG2D receptors (chNKG2D) develop protective host immune responses to tumor antigens. In this study, the mechanisms that chNKG2D T cells require to induce host immunity against ovarian tumors and which of the host immune cells are involved in tumor elimination were determined. Treatment with chNKG2D T cells led to a sustained, increased IFNγ production by host NK, CD4+, and CD8+ T cells in the spleen and at the tumor site and this continued for many weeks after T cell injection. Tumor antigen presentation was enhanced in chNKG2D T cell treated mice, and there were greater numbers of tumor-specific T cells at the tumor site and in draining lymph nodes after treatment with chNKG2D T cells. The increase in host cell cytokine secretion and antigen presentation was dependent on chNKG2D T cell-derived perforin, IFNγ, and GM-CSF. Host immune mechanisms were involved in tumor elimination because inhibition of tumor growth was limited in mice that lacked perforin, IFNγ, NK cells, or T and B cells (Rag1−/−). There was no role for host-derived GM-CSF or CD1-dependent NKT cells, as mice deficient in these were able to clear tumors as well as treated wildtype B6 mice. In summary, chNKG2D T cells required both cytotoxicity and cytokine secretion as well as the participation of host immune cells for development of a host anti-tumor immune response and complete efficacy.
Tumor immunity; NK cells; T cells; Cytotoxic
Deficiencies of the T cell and NK cell CD3ζ signaling adapter protein in cancer and autoimmune disease patients are well documented but mechanistic explanations are fragmentary. The stimulatory NKG2D receptor on T cells and NK cells mediates tumor immunity but can also promote local and systemic immune suppression in conditions of persistent NKG2D ligand induction that include cancer and certain autoimmune diseases. Here we provide evidence that establishes a causative link between CD3ζ impairment and chronic NKG2D stimulation due to pathological ligand expression. We describe a mechanism whereby NKG2D signaling in human T cells and NK cells initiates Fas ligand/Fas-mediated caspase-3/7 activation and resultant CD3ζ degradation. As a consequence, the functional capacities of the TCR, the low-affinity Fc receptor for IgG, and the NKp30 and NKp46 natural cytotoxicity receptors, which all signal through CD3ζ, are impaired. These findings are extended to ex vivo phenotypes of T cells and NK cells among tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes and in peripheral blood from juvenile-onset lupus patients. Collectively, these results indicate that pathological NKG2D ligand expression leads to simultaneous impairment of multiple CD3ζ-dependent receptor functions, thus offering an explanation that may be applicable to CD3ζ deficiencies associated with diverse disease conditions.
Ligands for the NKG2D stimulatory receptor are frequently upregulated on tumor lines, rendering them sensitive to NK cells, but the role of NKG2D in tumor surveillance has not been addressed in spontaneous cancer models. Here, we provided the first characterization of NKG2D-deficient mice, including evidence that NKG2D was not necessary for NK cell development, but was critical for immunosurveillance of epithelial and lymphoid malignancies in two transgenic models of de novo tumorigenesis. In both models, we detected NKG2D ligands on the tumor cell surface ex vivo, providing needed evidence for ligand expression by primary tumors. In a prostate cancer model, aggressive tumors arising in NKG2D-deficient mice expressed higher amounts of NKG2D ligands than did similar tumors in wild-type mice, suggesting an NKG2D-dependent immuno-editing of tumors in this model. These findings provide important genetic evidence for surveillance of primary tumors by an NK receptor.