An atypical population of NK cells that spontaneously secrete IFN-gamma and IL-4 is present in the intraepithelial lymphoid compartment of the rat

UMMS Affiliation

Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences; Department of Medicine, Division of Diabetes

Publication Date


Document Type



Life Sciences | Medicine and Health Sciences


The intestinal lymphoid compartment of the rat is large and diverse, but the phenotype and functions of its constituent cell populations are not fully characterized. Using new methodology for the isolation and purification of rat intestinal intraepithelial lymphocytes (IELs), we previously identified a population of alphabeta- and gammadelta-TCR- NKR-P1A+ NK cells. These cells were almost completely restricted to the CD4-CD8- IEL population, and unlike peripheral NK cells in the rat, they were CD2-. We now report that rat intraepithelial NK (IENK) and peripheral NK cells are similar in morphology, in their ability to lyse NK-sensitive targets, and in their ability to suppress a one-way mixed lymphocyte culture. In contrast, however, intraepithelial and splenic NK cells differ markedly in two respects. First, IENK cells express high levels of ADP-ribosyltransferase 2 (a marker of regulatory T cells in the rat) and CD25, whereas peripheral NK cells do not. Second, unlike splenic NK cells, a substantial fraction of IENK cells appear to spontaneously secrete IL-4 and/or IFN-gamma. We conclude that the rat IEL compartment harbors a large population of NKR-P1A+CD3- cells that function as NK cells but display an activated phenotype and unusual cytokine profile that clearly distinguish them from splenic NK cells. Their phenotypic and functional characteristics suggest that these distinctive IENK cells may participate in the regulation of mucosal immunity.

DOI of Published Version



J Immunol. 2001 Oct 1;167(7):3600-9.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)

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