Study Discovers Negative Regulator of Natural Killer Cell Maturation
A study led by researchers at the OSUCCC – James has identified a regulatory pathway in natural killer (NK) cells that impedes their maturation and homing behavior. NK cells are one of the body’s first lines of defense against viruses and cancer.
The findings could lead to strategies for boosting natural killer cell activity against cancer and viral infections. Jianhua Yu, PhD, assistant professor in the Division of Hematology at Ohio State and a member of the Leukemia Research Program at the OSUCCC – James, was principal investigator.
The study, which used an animal model and human NK cells, showed that a protein called Foxo1 inhibits NK cell development and function. It also showed that Foxo1 exerts its inhibitory effects by blocking transcription of the gene that encodes Tbx21, which is a known positive regulator of NK-cell development and function.
“We discovered a pathway that cancer cells may use to block NK-cell function and evade immune responses,” Yu says. “The findings may provide us with an opportunity to enhance NK-cell antitumor activity.”
Published in the journal Immunity.