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Free Content Widespread natural variation in murine natural killer T-cell number and function

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Natural killer T (NKT) cells comprise a novel T-lymphocyte subset that can influence a wide variety of immune responses through their ability to secrete large amounts of a variety of cytokines. Although variation in NKT-cell number and function has been extensively studied in autoimmune disease-prone mice, in which it has been linked to disease susceptibility, relatively little is known of the natural variation of NKT-cell number and function among normal inbred mouse strains. Here, we demonstrate strain-dependent variation in the susceptibility of C57BL/6J and BALB/cJ mice to NKT-mediated airway hyperreactivity, which correlated with significant increases in serum interleukin-4 (IL-4) and IL-13 elicited by the synthetic glycosphingolipid α-galactosylceramide. Examination of NKT-cell function revealed a significantly greater frequency of cytokine-producing NKT cells in C57BL/6J versus BALB/cJ mice as well as significant differences in the kinetics of NKT-cell cytokine production. Extension of this analysis to a panel of inbred mouse strains indicated that variability in NKT-cell cytokine production was widespread. Similarly, an examination of NKT-cell frequency revealed a significantly greater number of liver NKT cells in the C57BL/6J mice versus BALB/cJ mouse livers. Again, examination of a panel of inbred mouse strains revealed that liver NKT-cell numbers were quite variable, spanning over a 100-fold range. Taken together, these results demonstrate the presence of widespread natural variation in NKT-cell number and function among common inbred mouse strains, which may have implications for the examination of the influence of NKT cells in immune responses and disease pathogenesis among different genetic backgrounds.
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Keywords: NKT cells; asthma; liver; mouse

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Departments of Surgery 2: Medicine

Publication date: November 1, 2008

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