Regulatory NK cells in autoimmune disease

Document Type : Review Article


1 Immunology Research Center, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad, Iran

2 Natural Products and Medicinal Plants Research Center, North Khorasan University of Medical Sciences, Bojnurd, Iran

3 Department of Biomedical Engineering, Faculty of New Sciences and Technology, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran

4 Department of Basic Sciences, College of Medicine, Hawler Medical University, Erbil, Iraq

5 Department of Medical Analysis, Faculty of Applied Science, Tishk International University, Erbil, Iraq

6 Medical Laboratory Science Department, College of Science, University of Raparin, Rania, Sulaymaniyah, Iraq

7 Immunology Department, Faculty of Medicine, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad, Iran


NK cells are defined as the major components of the immunological network which exerts defense against tumors and viral infections as well as regulation of innate and adaptive immunity, shaped through interaction with other cells like T cells. According to the surface markers, NK cells can be divided into CD56dim NK and CD56bright NK subsets. CD56bright NK cells usually are known as regulatory NK cells. Once the immune system loses its self-tolerance, autoimmune diseases develop. NK cells and their subsets can be altered during autoimmune diseases, indicative of their prominent regulatory roles and even pathological and protective functions in autoimmune disorders. In this regard, activation of CD56bright NK cells can suppress activated autologous CD4+ T cells and subsequently prevent the initiation of autoimmunity. In this review article, we summarize the roles of regulatory NK cells in autoimmune disease occurrence which needs more research to uncover their exact related mechanism. It seems that targeting NK cells can be a promising therapeutic platform against autoimmune diseases.


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