Park, H-R., Jung, U. and Jo, S-K. Impairment of Natural Killer (NK) Cells is an Important Factor in a Weak Th1-like Response in Irradiated Mice. Radiat. Res. 168, 446–452 (2007).

In whole-body-irradiated (WBI) mice, levels of the canonical Th1 cytokine IFN-γ (IFNG) have been shown to be markedly reduced, resulting in a Th1/Th2 imbalance. In this study, the influence of natural killer (NK) cells on the balance of this Th1/Th2 immune response was evaluated in WBI mice. Although NK cells are one of the types of cells that secreteIFN-γ, NK cell activity tends to be minimal, even at 7 weeks after irradiation. In NK cell-depleted mice, the levels of Th1-related cytokines were lower than those of the control mice and were correlated with lower IgG2a production and elevated IgE and IgG1 production. These results indicated that NK cells have a crucial role in the final differentiation of Th cells into Th1 cells. The impairment of NK cells in the WBI mice was confirmed by the observation that NK cells from the WBI mice induced a decrease in the generation of IFN-γ by the NK cell-depleted spleen lymphocytes from normal mice. Also, the WBI mice that received NK cells obtained from the normal mice generated more IgG2a, IL12 and IFN-γ. Our results indicate that the impairment of NK cells is an important factor in the reduced Th1-like response in irradiated mice.

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