These data demonstrate that NK-cell subsets are able to modify their phenotype under certain conditions. Consequently, before performing functional assays of CXCR3− and CXCR3+ NK cells, sorting Protein Tyrosine Kinase inhibitor of the two subsets was necessary. We previously reported that sorted human CD56dim and CD56bright NK-cell
subsets differ in IL-21-dependent proliferation 31. In order to investigate if this also holds true for murine NK-cell subsets, we determined the proliferation of sorted CXCR3− and CXCR3+ splenic NK-cell subsets in response to activation with IL-21 and/or IL-15 in [3H]thymidine and CFSE assays (Fig. 4). Upon stimulation, CXCR3+ NK cells displayed a stronger proliferative response than CXCR3− NK cells, regardless
of the combination of stimulating cytokines. Both IL-15 and IL-21 alone had comparable PF-562271 order effects on CXCR3+ NK cells, whereas CXCR3− NK cells proliferated poorly when stimulated with IL-21. In contrast, CXCR3− NK cells proliferated well in response to IL-15. As measured with [3H]thymidine, the combination of IL-15 and IL-21 resulted in drastically increased proliferation of both subsets, especially in CXCR3+ NK cells (Fig. 4B). This additive effect was not clearly detectable in CFSE assays where 7-AAD− NK cells were analyzed to exclude apoptotic cells. In contrast to CXCR3− NK cells, however, almost all CXCR3+ NK cells responded to stimulation with IL-15 and IL-21 alone or in combination. In order to investigate if murine CXCR3− and CXCR3+ NK cells display differential cytotoxic ability like human CD56dim and CD56bright NK cells, standard 4h 51Cr-release assays and CD107a assays were performed (Fig. 5). Cytotoxic
activity of CXCR3− NK cells against YAC-1 target cells was twice as high as CXCR3+ NK-cell-mediated cytotoxicity (Fig. 5A). Although CXCR3− NK cells also degranulated stronger than CXCR3+ NK cells, a relatively high proportion of the latter subset was also CD107a+ (Fig. 5B). We further analyzed degranulation of sorted CXCR3+ NK cells and discriminated neCXCR3− NK cells from NK cells that Dichloromethane dehalogenase maintained CXCR3 on their surface (stable; sCXCR3+), revealing that NK cells that downregulated CXCR3 expression displayed stronger degranulation than sCXCR3+ NK cells (Fig. 5C). Strongly reduced percentages of degranulating NK cells were measured when using negatively sorted NK cells that had no contact with anti-NKp46 antibody (data not shown). As human CD56bright NK cells are known to produce higher amounts of cytokines such as IFN-γ than CD56dim NK cells, cytokine production of sorted murine CXCR3− and CXCR3+ NK cells was determined both on mRNA and protein levels (Fig. 6) 14, 15. Upon stimulation with PMA/ionomycin or IL-12 and IL-18 (15 h), mRNA levels of MIP-1α, TNF-α, and IFN-γ were higher in CXCR3+ as compared with CXCR3− NK cells (Fig. 6A).