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Distinct Cytokine Profiles of Neonatal Natural Killer T Cells after Expansion with Subsets of Dendritic Cells


Natural killer T (NKT) cells are a highly conserved subset of T cells that have been shown to play a critical role in suppressing T helper cell type 1-mediated autoimmune diseases and graft versus host disease in an interleukin (IL)-4-dependent manner. Thus, it is important to understand how the development of IL-4- versus interferon (IFN)-gamma-producing NKT cells is regulated. Here, we show that NKT cells from adult blood and those from cord blood undergo massive expansion in cell numbers (500-70,000-fold) during a 4-wk culture with IL-2, IL-7, phytohemagglutinin, anti-CD3, and anti-CD28 mAbs. Unlike adult NKT cells that preferentially produce both IL-4 and IFN-gamma, neonatal NKT cells preferentially produce IL-4 after polyclonal activation. Addition of type 2 dendritic cells (DC2) enhances the development of neonatal NKT cells into IL-4(+)IFN-gamma(-) NKT2 cells, whereas addition of type 1 dendritic cells (DC1) induces polarization towards IL-4(-)IFN-gamma(+) NKT1 cells. Adult NKT cells display limited plasticity for polarization induced by DC1 or DC2. Thus, newly generated NKT cells may possess the potent ability to develop into IL-4(+)IFN-gamma(-) NKT2 cells in response to appropriate stimuli and may thereafter acquire the tendency to produce both IL-4 and IFN-gamma.

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