Natural killer T cells: Rapid responders controlling immunity and disease

Jason C. Mercer, Melanie J. Ragin, Avery August

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Natural killer T (NKT) cells are a subset of T cells that share properties of natural killer cells and conventional T cells. They are involved in immediate immune responses, tumor rejection, immune surveillance and control of autoimmune diseases. Most NKT cells express both an invariant T cell antigen receptor and the NK cell receptor NK1.1, and are referred to as invariant NKT cells. This invariant T cell receptor is restricted to interactions with glycolipids presented by the non-classical MHC, CD1d. These NKT cells rapidly produce high levels of interleukin (IL)-2, IFN-γ, TNF-α, and IL-4 upon stimulation through their TCR. Most also have cytotoxic activity similar to NK cells. NKT cells are involved in a number of pathological conditions, and have been shown to regulate viral infections in vivo, and control tumor growth. They may also play both protective and harmful roles in the progression of certain autoimmune diseases, such as diabetes, lupus, atherosclerosis, and allergen-induced asthma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1337-1343
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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