Expansion of a unique CD57+NKG2Chinatural killer cell subset during acute human cytomegalovirus infection
Killer Cells, Natural
NK Cell Lectin-Like Receptor Subfamily C
During human CMV infection, there is a preferential expansion of natural killer (NK) cells expressing the activating CD94-NKG2C receptor complex, implicating this receptor in the recognition of CMV-infected cells. We hypothesized that NK cells expanded in response to pathogens will be marked by expression of CD57, a carbohydrate antigen expressed on highly mature cells within the CD56(dim)CD16(+) NK cell compartment. Here we demonstrate the preferential expansion of a unique subset of NK cells coexpressing the activating CD94-NKG2C receptor and CD57 in CMV(+) donors. These CD57(+)NKG2C(hi) NK cells degranulated in response to stimulation through their NKG2C receptor. Furthermore, CD57(+)NKG2C(hi) NK cells preferentially lack expression of the inhibitory NKG2A receptor and the inhibitory KIR3DL1 receptor in individuals expressing its HLA-Bw4 ligand. Moreover, in solid-organ transplant recipients with active CMV infection, the percentage of CD57(+)NKG2C(hi) NK cells in the total NK cell population preferentially increased. During acute CMV infection, the NKG2C(+) NK cells proliferated, became NKG2C(hi), and finally acquired CD57. Thus, we propose that CD57 might provide a marker of "memory" NK cells that have been expanded in response to infection.