Spatial organization of signal transduction molecules in the NK cell immune synapses during MHC class I-regulated noncytolytic and cytolytic interactions

Y. M. Vyas, K. M. Mehta, M. Morgan, H. Maniar, L. Butros, S. Jung, J. K. Burkhardt, B. Dupont

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

148 Scopus citations


The cytolytic activity of NK cells is tightly regulated by inhibitory receptors specific for MHC class I Ags. We have investigated the composition of signal transduction molecules in the supramolecular activation clusters in the MHC class I-regulated cytolytic and noncytolytic NK cell immune synapses. KIR2DL3-positive NK clones that are specifically inhibited in their cytotoxicity by HLA-Cw*0304 and polyclonal human NK cells were used for conjugate formation with target cells that are either protected or are susceptible to NK cell-mediated cytotoxicity. Polarization of talin, microtubule-organizing center, and lysosomes occurred only during cytolytic interactions. The NK immune synapses were analyzed by three-dimensional immunofluorescence microscopy, which showed two distinctly different synaptic organizations in NK cells during cytolytic and noncytolytic interactions. The center of a cytolytic synapse with MHC class I-deficient target is comprised of a complex of signaling molecules including Src homology (SH)2-containing protein tyrosine phosphatase-1 (SHP-1). Closely related molecules with overlapping functions, such as the Syk kinases, SYK, and ZAP-70, and adaptor molecules, SH2 domain-containing leukocyte protein of 76 kDa and B cell linker protein, are expressed in activated NK cells and are all recruited to the center of the cytolytic synapse. In contrast, the noncytolytic synapse contains SHP-1, but is lacking other components of the central supramolecular activation cluster. These findings indicate a functional role for SHP-1 in both the cytolytic and noncytolytic interactions. We also demonstrate, in three-cell conjugates, that a single NK cell forms a cytolytic synapse with a susceptible target cell in the presence of both susceptible and nonsusceptible target cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4358-4367
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 15 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology

Cite this