A novel immunoregulatory role for NK-cell cytotoxicity in protection from HLH-like immunopathology in mice

Fernando E Sepulveda, Sophia Maschalidi, Christian A J Vosshenrich, Alexandrine Garrigue, Mathieu Kurowska, Gael Ménasche, Alain Fischer, James P Di Santo, Geneviève de Saint Basile
Blood 2015 February 26, 125 (9): 1427-34
The impairment of cytotoxic activity of lymphocytes disturbs immune surveillance and leads to the development of hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytic syndrome (HLH). Although cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) control of HLH development is well documented, the role for natural killer (NK)-cell effector functions in the pathogenesis of this immune disorder remains unclear. In this study, we specifically targeted a defect in cytotoxicity to either CTL or NK cells in mice so as to dissect the contribution of these lymphocyte subsets to HLH-like disease severity after lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) infection. We found that NK-cell cytotoxicity was sufficient to protect mice from the fatal outcome that characterizes HLH-like disease and was also sufficient to reduce HLH-like manifestations. Mechanistically, NK-cell cytotoxicity reduced tissue infiltration by inflammatory macrophages and downmodulated LCMV-specific T-cell responses by limiting hyperactivation of CTL. Interestingly, the critical protective effect of NK cells on HLH was independent of interferon-γ secretion and changes in viral load. Therefore our findings identify a crucial role of NK-cell cytotoxicity in limiting HLH-like immunopathology, highlighting the important role of NK cytotoxic activity in immune homeostasis.

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