Nuclear factor interleukin-3 (Nfil3; also known as E4-binding protein 4) is a basic region leucine zipper transcription factor that has antiapoptotic activity in vitro under conditions of growth factor withdrawal. To study the role of Nfil3 in vivo, we generated gene-targeted Nfil3-deficient (Nfil3 -/-) mice. Nfil3-/- mice were born at normal Mendelian frequency and were grossly normal and fertile. Although numbers of T cells, B cells, and natural killer (NK) T cells were normal in Nfil3-/- mice, a specific disruption in NK cell development resulted in severely reduced numbers of mature NK cells in the periphery. This defect was NK cell intrinsic in nature, leading to a failure to reject MHC class I-deficient cells in vivo and reductions in both interferon γ production and cytolytic activity in vitro. Our results confirm the specific and essential requirement of Nfil3 for the development of cells of the NK lineage.
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