Immunological memory is a hallmark of the adaptive immune system. Although natural killer (NK) cells have traditionally been classified as a component of the innate immune system, they have recently been shown in mice and humans to exhibit certain features of immunological memory, including an ability to undergo a clonal-like expansion during virus infection, generate long-lived progeny (i.e. memory cells), and mediate recall responses against previously encountered pathogens—all characteristics previously ascribed only to adaptive immune responses by B and T cells in mammals. To date, the molecular events that govern the generation of NK cell memory are not completely understood. Using a mouse model of cytomegalovirus infection, we demonstrate that individual pro-inflammatory IL-12, IL-18, and type I-IFN signaling pathways are indispensible and play non-redundant roles in the generation of virus-specific NK cell memory. Furthermore, we discovered that antigen- specific proliferation and protection by NK cells is mediated by the transcription factor Zbtb32, which is induced by pro-inflammatory cytokines and promotes a cell cycle program in activated NK cells. A greater understanding of the molecular mechanisms controlling NK cell responses will provide novel strategies for tailoring vaccines to target infectious disease.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Adaptive immune system
- Cytokine stimulation
- Innate immune system
- NK cell memory