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Göbel, Thomas W. F.; Kaspers, Bernd and Stangassinger, Manfred (2001): NK and T cells constitute two major, functionally distinct intestinal epithelial lymphocyte subsets in the chicken. In: International Immunology, Vol. 13, No. 6: pp. 757-762 [PDF, 233kB]


Non-mammalian NK cells have not been characterized in detail; however, their analysis is essential for the understanding of the NK cell receptor phylogeny. As a first step towards defining chicken NK cells, several tissues were screened for the presence of NK cells, phenotypically defined as CD8(+) cells lacking T- or B-lineage specific markers. By this criteria, approximately 30% of CD8(+) intestinal intraepithelial lymphocytes (IEL), but <1% of splenocytes or peripheral blood lymphocytes were defined as NK cells. These CD8(+)CD3(-) IEL were used for the generation of the 28-4 mAb, immunoprecipitating a 35-kDa glycoprotein with a 28-kDa protein core. The CD3 and 28-4 mAb were used to separate IEL into CD3(+) IEL T cells and 28-4(+) cells, both co-expressing the CD8 antigen. During ontogeny, 28-4(+) cells were abundant in the IEL and in the embryonic spleen, where two subsets could be distinguished according to their CD8 and c-kit expression. Most importantly, 28-4(+) IEL lysed NK-sensitive targets, whereas intestinal T cells did not have any spontaneous cytolytic activity. These results define two major, phenotypically and functionally distinct IEL subpopulations, and imply an important role of NK cells in the mucosal immune system.

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