Missing self by heterogeneous natural killer cells
Some murine (YAC, P815 and SP20) and human (Molt4, Raji and HR7) tumour cell lines were (i) treated with IFN-γ for inducing enhanced expression of MHC class I antigen, or (ii) given a brief treatment with citrate buffer (pH 3.0), which resulted in denaturation of class I MHC antigens on these tumour cells. IFL-γ or acid treated tumour cells were used as unlabelled competing targets in cold target inhibition assays. The results indicated that the competing ability of acid-treated tumour cells remained unaltered, whereas IFN-γ treated tumour cells competed with significantly less efficiency. These results have been evaluated in light of the current view of NK cell development and the expression of inhibitory receptors for MHC class I molecules (IRMs), on NK cells. A modified view on NK cell heterogeneity based upon IRM expression has been proposed which reconciles several apparently discordant observations about the activity and role of NK cells. Two classes of NK cells have been proposed. Type I NK ceils have target recognition receptors which do not recognize autologous normal cells, lack IRMs, and may participate in first line of defence against transformed cellsin vivo. Type II NK cells have target recognition receptors for autologous normal cells and express at least one self-reactive IRM in order to prevent auto-killing. Type II NK cells participate in killing those transformed cells which down-regulate their MHC class I expression in order to escape cytotoxic T-cell surveillance. It is also postulated that mechanism of inverse correlation of target cell MHC class I expression levels and their susceptibility to NK cells, involves interference model of missing self hypothesis for type I NK cells and inhibitory signal model of missing self hypothesis for type II NE cells. Finally, it is proposed that acid treatment of tumour cells enhances their lysis susceptibility by making them additionally susceptible to type II NK cells, rather than enhancing their killing by type I NK cells. This proposition would explain the lack of effect of acid treatment on the competing ability of tumour cells, when target cells are only lysed by type I NE cells.