Research Papers:

Tonsillar CD56brightNKG2A+ NK cells restrict primary Epstein-Barr virus infection in B cells via IFN-γ

Aurelia Jud, Monika Kotur, Christoph Berger, Claudine Gysin, David Nadal and Anna Lünemann _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:6130-6141. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.14045

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Aurelia Jud1, Monika Kotur1, Christoph Berger1,2, Claudine Gysin3, David Nadal1,2,*, Anna Lünemann1,*

1Children’s Research Center, University Children’s Hospital, Experimental Infectious Diseases and Cancer Research, Zurich, Switzerland

2Division of Infectious Diseases, and Children’s Research Center, University Children’s Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

3Children’s Research Center, University Children’s Hospital, ENT Clinic, Zurich, Switzerland

*These authors contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Anna Lünemann, email: [email protected]

Keywords: natural killer cells, epstein barr virus, interferon gamma, secondary lymphoid organs, B cells

Received: October 11, 2016     Accepted: December 13, 2016     Published: December 20, 2016


Natural killer (NK) cells constitute the first line of defense against viruses and cancers cells. Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) was the first human virus to be directly implicated in carcinogenesis, and EBV infection is associated with a broad spectrum of B cell lymphomas. How NK cells restrict EBV-associated oncogenesis is not understood. Here, we investigated the efficacies and mechanisms of distinct NK cell subsets from tonsils, the portal of entry of EBV, in limiting EBV infection in naïve, germinal center-associated and memory B cells. We found that CD56bright and NKG2A expression sufficiently characterizes the potent anti-EBV capacity of tonsillar NK cells. We observed restriction of EBV infection in B cells as early as 18 hours after infection. The restriction was most efficient in naïve B cells and germinal center-associated B cells, the B cell subsets that exhibited highest susceptibility to EBV infection in vitro. IFN-γ release by and partially NKp44 engagement of CD56bright and NKG2A positive NK cells mediated the restriction that eventually inhibited B-cell transformation. Thus, harnessing CD56brightNKG2A+ NK cell function might be promising to improve treatment strategies that target EBV-associated B cell lymphomas.

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