Cytokine-mediated activation of NK cells during viral infection

Bailey E. Freeman, Hans Peter Raué, Ann B. Hill, Mark K. Slifka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Natural killer (NK) cells provide a first line of defense against infection via the production of antiviral cytokines and direct lysis of target cells. Cytokines such as interleukin 12 (IL-12) and IL-18 are critical regulators of NK cell activation, but much remains to be learned about how cytokines interact to regulate NK cell function. Here, we have examined cytokine-mediated activation of NK cells during infection with two natural mouse pathogens, lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) and murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV). Using a systematic screen of 1,849 cytokine pairs, we identified the most potent combinations capable of eliciting gamma interferon (IFN-γ) production in NK cells. We observed that NK cell responses to cytokine stimulation were reduced 8 days after acute LCMV infection but recovered to preinfection levels by 60 days postinfection. In contrast, during MCMV infection, NK cell responses to cytokines remained robust at all time points examined. Ly49H-positive (Ly49H+) NK cells recognizing viral ligand m157 showed preferential proliferation during early MCMV infection. A population of these cells was still detected beyond 60 days postinfection, but these divided cells did not demonstrate enhanced IFN-γ production in response to innate cytokine stimulation. Instead, the maturation state of the NK cells (as determined by CD11b or CD27 surface phenotype) was predictive of responsiveness to cytokines, regardless of Ly49H expression. These results help define cytokine interactions that regulate NK cell activation and highlight variations in NK cell function during two unrelated viral infections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7922-7931
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number15
StatePublished - 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


Dive into the research topics of 'Cytokine-mediated activation of NK cells during viral infection'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this