Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)

CD56brightCD16- NK Cells Produce Adenosine through a CD38-Mediated Pathway and Act as Regulatory Cells Inhibiting Autologous CD4+ T Cell Proliferation.

PMID 26091716


Recent studies suggested that human CD56(bright)CD16(-) NK cells may play a role in the regulation of the immune response. Since the mechanism(s) involved have not yet been elucidated, in the present study we have investigated the role of nucleotide-metabolizing enzymes that regulate the extracellular balance of nucleotides/nucleosides and produce the immunosuppressive molecule adenosine (ADO). Peripheral blood CD56(dim)CD16(+) and CD56(bright)CD16(-) NK cells expressed similar levels of CD38. CD39, CD73, and CD157 expression was higher in CD56(bright)CD16(-) than in CD56(dim)CD16(+) NK cells. CD57 was mostly expressed by CD56(dim)CD16(+) NK cells. CD203a/PC-1 expression was restricted to CD56(bright)CD16(-) NK cells. CD56(bright)CD16(-) NK cells produce ADO and inhibit autologous CD4(+) T cell proliferation. Such inhibition was 1) reverted pretreating CD56(bright)CD16(-) NK cells with a CD38 inhibitor and 2) increased pretreating CD56(bright)CD16(-) NK cells with a nucleoside transporter inhibitor, which increase extracellular ADO concentration. CD56(bright)CD16(-) NK cells isolated from the synovial fluid of juvenile idiopathic arthritis patients failed to inhibit autologous CD4(+) T cell proliferation. Such functional impairment could be related to 1) the observed reduced CD38/CD73 expression, 2) a peculiar ADO production kinetics, and 3) a different expression of ADO receptors. In contrast, CD56(bright)CD16(-) NK cells isolated from inflammatory pleural effusions display a potent regulatory activity. In conclusion, CD56(bright)CD16(-) NK cells act as "regulatory cells" through ADO produced by an ectoenzymes network, with a pivotal role of CD38. This function may be relevant for the modulation of the immune response in physiological and pathological conditions, and it could be impaired during autoimmune/inflammatory diseases.

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