DX5/CD49b-positive T cells are not synonymous with CD1d-dependent NKT cells

Daniel G. Pellicci, Kirsten J.L. Hammond, Jonathan Coquet, Konstantinos Kyparissoudis, Andrew G. Brooks, Katherine Kedzierska, Rachael Keating, Stephen Turner, Stuart Berzins, Mark J. Smyth, Dale I. Godfrey

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35 Citations (Scopus)


NKT cells are typically defined as CD1d-dependent T cells that carry an invariant TCR α-chain and produce high levels of cytokines. Traditionally, these cells were defined as NK1.1 + T cells, although only a few mouse strains express the NK1.1 molecule. A popular alternative marker for NKT cells has been DX5, an Ab that detects the CD49b integrin, expressed by most NK cells and a subset of T cells that resemble NKT cells. Interpretation of studies using DX5 as an NKT cell marker depends on how well DX5 defines NKT cells. Using a range of DX5 and other anti-CD49b Abs, we reveal major differences in reactivity depending on which Ab and which fluorochrome are used. The brightest, PE-conjugated reagents revealed that while most CD1d-dependent NKT cells expressed CD49b, they represented only a minority of CD49b + T cells. Furthermore, CB49b + T cell numbers were near normal in CD1d -/- mice that are completely deficient for NKT cells. CD1d tetramer - CD49b + T cells differ from NKT cells by their activation and memory marker expression, tissue distribution, and CD4/CD8 coreceptor profile. Interestingly, both NKT cells and CD1d tetramer - CD49b + T cells produce cytokines, but the latter are clearly biased toward Th1-type cytokines, in contrast to NKT cells that produce both Th1 and Th2 cytokines. Finally, we demonstrate that expression of CD49b by NKT cells does not dramatically alter with age, contrasting with earlier reports proposing DX5 as a maturation marker for NKT cells. In summary, our data demonstrate that DX5/CD49b is a poor marker for identifying CD1d-dependent NKT cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4416-4425
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2005
Externally publishedYes

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