NK cell responses to simian immunodeficiency virus vaginal exposure in naive and vaccinated rhesus macaques

Liang Shang, Anthony J. Smith, Lijie Duan, Katherine E. Perkey, Lucy Qu, Stephen Wietgrefe, Mary Zupancic, Peter J. Southern, Katherine Masek-Hammerman, R. Keith Reeves, R. Paul Johnson, Ashley T. Haase

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18 Scopus citations


NK cell responses to HIV/SIV infection have been well studied in acute and chronic infected patients/monkeys, but little is known about NK cells during viral transmission, particularly in mucosal tissues. In this article, we report a systematic study of NK cell responses to high-dose vaginal exposure to SIVmac251 in the rhesus macaque female reproductive tract (FRT). Small numbers of NK cells were recruited into the FRT mucosa following vaginal inoculation. The influx of mucosal NK cells preceded local virus replication and peaked at 1 wk and, thus, was in an appropriate time frame to control an expanding population of infected cells at the portal of entry. However, NK cells were greatly outnumbered by recruited target cells that fuel local virus expansion and were spatially dissociated from SIV RNA+ cells at the major site of expansion of infected founder populations in the transition zone and adjoining endocervix. The number of NK cells in the FRT mucosa decreased rapidly in the second week, while the number of SIV RNA+ cells in the FRT reached its peak. Mucosal NK cells produced IFN-γ and MIP-1α/CCL3 but lacked several markers of activation and cytotoxicity, and this was correlated with inoculum-induced upregulation of the inhibitory ligand HLA-E and downregulation of the activating receptor CD122/IL-2Rβ. Examination of SIVΔnef-vaccinated monkeys suggested that recruitment of NK cells to the genital mucosa was not involved in vaccine-induced protection from vaginal challenge. In summary, our results suggest that NK cells play, at most, a limited role in defenses in the FRT against vaginal challenge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-284
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2014


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