Korean J Pediatr.  2010 Feb;53(2):136-145. 10.3345/kjp.2010.53.2.136.

Natural killer T cell and pathophysiology of asthma

  • 1Department of Pediatrics, NHIC Ilsan Hospital, Ilsan, Korea. janggwangcheon@daum.net


Natural killer T (NKT) cell is a special type of T lymphocytes that has both receptor of natural killer (NK) cell (NK1.1, CD161c) and T cell (TCR) and express a conserved or invariant T cell receptor called Valpha14Jalpha18 in mice or Va24 in humans. Invariant NKT (iNKT) cell recognizes lipid antigen presented by CD1d molecules. Marine-sponge-derived glycolipid, alpha-galactosylceremide (alpha-GalCer), binds CD1d at the cell surface of antigen-presenting cells and is presented to iNKT cells. Within hours, iNKT cells become activated and start to secrete Interleukin-4 and interferon-gamma. NKT cell prevents autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, experimental allergic encephalomyelitis, systemic lupus erythematous, inflammatory colitis, and Graves' thyroiditis, by activation with alpha-GalCer. In addition, NKT cell is associated with infectious diseases by mycobacteria, leshmania, and virus. Moreover NKT cell is associated with asthma, especially CD4+ iNKT cells. In this review, I will discuss the characteristics of NKT cell and the association with inflammatory diseases, especially asthma.


NKT cell; Asthma; CD1d molecule; alpha-GalCer
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