Natural Killer (NK) Cells

and NKT cells

A small fraction (~2%) of the lymphocytes circulating in the blood are neither T cells nor B cells. Most of these are called natural killer (NK) cells because they are already specialized to kill certain types of target cells, especially

Features of NK Cells

NKT Cells

NKT cells are NOT the same as NK cells.

NKT cells are T cells with an αβ TCR. However, they also express some of the cell-surface molecules of NK cells — hence their name.

They differ from most T cells

NKT cells are able to secrete large amounts of either

Perhaps the function of NKT cells is to provide quicker help for a cell-mediated immune response (IFN-γ) or antibody-mediated response (IL-4) than the several days needed by conventional T-helper cells. If so, NKT cells would represent a link between innate and adaptive immunity.

In addition to defending against some infectious agents, NKT cells have been implicated in protecting against but have recently been shown to be present in large numbers in the lungs of patients with asthma where they probably play a major role in the lung inflammation characteristic of the disease.
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5 April 2012