Human memory-like NK cells are commonly defined by either a lack of FcεRIγ or gain of NKG2C expression. Here, we investigated the heterogeneity of human CD56dim NK cell subpopulations according to the expression of FcεRIγ and NKG2C in a large cohort (n = 127). Although the frequency of FcεRIγ− and NKG2C+ NK cells positively correlated, the FcεRIγ− and NKG2C+ NK cell populations did not exactly overlap. The FcεRIγ+NKG2C+, FcεRIγ−NKG2C+, and FcεRIγ−NKG2C− NK cell populations were only evident after HCMV infection, but each had distinct characteristics. Among the subpopulations, FcεRIγ−NKG2C+ NK cells exhibited the most restricted killer immunoglobulin-like receptor repertoire, suggesting clonal expansion. Moreover, FcεRIγ−NKG2C+ NK cells exhibited the lowest Ki-67 and highest Bcl-2 expression, indicating the long-lived quiescent memory-like property. Functionally, FcεRIγ−NKG2C+ NK cells had weak natural effector function against K562 but strong effector functions by CD16 engagement, whereas FcεRIγ+NKG2C+ NK cells had strong effector functions in both settings. Anatomically, the FcεRIγ+NKG2C+, FcεRIγ−NKG2C+, and FcεRIγ−NKG2C− NK cell populations were present in multiple human peripheral organs. In conclusion, we demonstrate the heterogeneity of memory-like NK cells stratified by FcεRIγ and NKG2C and suggest both markers be utilized to better define these cells.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported by a National Research Foundation (NRF) grant (NRF-2017R1A2A1A17069782 and NRF-2018M3A9D3079498), which was funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT).
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Immunology and Allergy