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Differential Role of Hematopoietic and Nonhematopoietic Cell Types in the Regulation of NK Cell Tolerance and Responsiveness.


Many NK cells express inhibitory receptors that bind self-MHC class I (MHC I) molecules and prevent killing of self-cells, while enabling killing of MHC I-deficient cells. But tolerance also occurs for NK cells that lack inhibitory receptors for self-MHC I, and for all NK cells in MHC I-deficient animals. In both cases, NK cells are unresponsive to MHC I-deficient cells and hyporesponsive when stimulated through activating receptors, suggesting that hyporesponsiveness is responsible for self-tolerance. We generated irradiation chimeras, or carried out adoptive transfers, with wild-type (WT) and/or MHC I-deficient hematopoietic cells in WT or MHC I-deficient C57BL/6 host mice. Unexpectedly, in WT hosts, donor MHC I-deficient hematopoietic cells failed to induce hyporesponsiveness to activating receptor stimulation, but did induce tolerance to MHC I-deficient grafts. Therefore, these two properties of NK cells are separable. Both tolerance and hyporesponsiveness occurred when the host was MHC I deficient. Interestingly, infections of mice or exposure to inflammatory cytokines reversed the tolerance of NK cells that was induced by MHC I-deficient hematopoietic cells, but not the tolerance induced by MHC I-deficient nonhematopoietic cells. These data have implications for successful bone marrow transplantation, and suggest that tolerance induced by hematopoietic cells versus nonhematopoietic cells may be imposed by distinct mechanisms.

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