PloS one

Identification and Analysis of Natural Killer Cells in Murine Nasal Passages.

PMID 26575399


Natural killer (NK) cells in the upper respiratory airways are not well characterized. In the current study, we sought to characterize and functionally assess murine nasal NK cells. Using immunohistochemistry and flow cytometry, we compared the nasal NK cells of Ncr1GFP/+ knock-in mice, whose NK cells produced green fluorescent protein, with their splenic and pulmonary counterparts. In addition, we functionally analyzed the nasal NK cells of these mice in vitro. To assess the in vivo functions of nasal NK cells, C57BL/6 mice depleted of NK cells after treatment with PK136 antibody were nasally infected with influenza virus PR8. Immunohistochemical analysis confirmed the presence of NK cells in the lamina propria of nasal mucosa, and flow cytometry showed that these cells were of NK cell lineage. The expression patterns of Ly49 receptor, CD11b/CD27, CD62L and CD69 revealed that nasal NK cells had an immature and activated phenotype compared with that of their splenic and pulmonary counterparts. Effector functions including degranulation and IFN(interferon)-γ production after in vitro stimulation with phorbol 12-myristate-13-acetate plus ionomycin or IL(interleukin)-12 plus IL-18 were dampened in nasal NK cells, and the depletion of NK cells led to an increased influenza virus titer in nasal passages. The NK cells of the murine nasal passage belong to the conventional NK cell linage and characteristically demonstrate an immature and activated phenotype. Despite their hyporesponsiveness in vitro, nasal NK cells play important roles in the host defense against nasal influenza virus infection.