TheNotchsignaling pathway plays a substantial role inhumanNKcell development.However, the role ofNotchonkiller Ig-like receptor (KIR) upregulation and acquisition of effector function has not been explored. To evaluate how Notch influences terminal differentiation, cord blood-derived NK cells or sorted peripheral blood NK cells were cultured with IL-15 for 7 d with inhibitory or activating Notch signals. Inhibition of Notch signaling significantly decreased KIR expression, whereas activation enhanced it. Overexpression of activated Notch on cord blood-derived NK cells resulted in a 2-fold increase in KIR expression, indicating that Notch signaling plays a direct, cell-intrinsic role in KIR regulation. Moreover, Notch-mediatedKIR expression on NKcells is regulated through cis inhibition by delta-like ligand 1. Notch signaling also enhances CD16 upregulation that precedes KIR expression. Concomitant with the upregulation of KIR and CD16, Notch signaling induces increased cytolytic effector capacity and cytokine secretion, even in posttransplant samples in whichNKcell function is inherently defective.Given these attributes of Notch signaling, we propose that Notch agonists may enhance NK cell maturation and tumor killing in a posttransplant setting.
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© 2014 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.