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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Proapoptotic Bim regulates antigen-specific NK cell contraction and the generation of the memory NK cell pool after cytomegalovirus infection.

  • Author(s): Min-Oo, Gundula
  • Bezman, Natalie A
  • Madera, Sharline
  • Sun, Joseph C
  • Lanier, Lewis L
  • et al.

Apoptosis is critical for the elimination of activated lymphocytes after viral infection. Proapoptotic factor Bim (Bcl2l11) controls T lymphocyte contraction and the formation of memory T cells after infection. Natural killer (NK) cells also undergo antigen-driven expansion to become long-lived memory cells after mouse cytomegalovirus (MCMV) infection; therefore, we examined the role of Bim in regulating the MCMV-driven memory NK cell pool. Despite responding similarly early after infection, Bcl2l11(-/-) Ly49H(+) NK cells show impaired contraction and significantly outnumber wild-type (WT) cells after the expansion phase. The inability to reduce the effector pool leads to a larger Bcl2l11(-/-) NK memory subset, which displays a less mature phenotype (CD11b(lo), CD27(+)) and lower levels of NK cell memory-associated markers KLRG1 and Ly6C. Bcl2l11(-/-) memory NK cells demonstrate a reduced response to m157-mediated stimulation and do not protect as effectively as WT memory NK cells in an MCMV challenge model. Thus, Bim-mediated apoptosis drives selective contraction of effector NK cells to generate a pool of mature, MCMV-specific memory cells.

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