Natural killer (NK) cells are innate lymphocytes that play an important role against viral infections and cancer. This effect is achieved through a complex mosaic of inhibitory and activating receptors expressed by NK cells that ultimately determine the magnitude of the NK-cell response. The T-cell immunoglobulin- and mucin domain-containing (Tim)-3 receptor was initially identified as a T-helper 1-specific type I membrane protein involved in regulating T-cell responses. Human NK cells transcribe the highest amounts of Tim-3 among lymphocytes. Tim-3 protein is expressed on essentially all mature CD56dimCD16+ NK cells and is expressed heterogeneously in the immature CD56brightCD16- NK-cell subset in blood from healthy adults and in cord blood. Tim-3 expression was induced on CD56brightCD16- NK cells after stimulation with IL-15 or IL-12 and IL-18 in vitro, suggesting that Tim-3 is a maturation marker on NK cells. Whereas Tim-3 has been used to identify dysfunctional T cells, NK cells expressing high amounts of Tim-3 are fully responsive with respect to cytokine production and cytotoxicity. However, when Tim-3 was cross-linked with antibodies it suppressed NK cell-mediated cytotoxicity. These findings suggest that NK-cell responses may be negatively regulated when NK cells encounter target cells expressing cognate ligands of Tim-3.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology