In vitro differentiation of natural killer T cells from human cord blood CD34+ cells

So Youn Woo, Yu Jin Jung, Kyung Ha Ryu, Hae Young Park, Jeong Hae Kie, Seok Ah Im, Wha Soon Chung, Ho Seong Han, Ju Young Seoh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Natural killer T (NKT) cells are involved in innate immune defence and also in the regulation of adaptive immune responses. However, the development of NKT cells in vitro has not been fully characterized and culture conditions have not been fully optimized. In the present study, we found that an NKT cell fraction developed during the in vitro culture of cord blood (CB) CD34+ cells, and this was subsequently characterized both phenotypically and morphologically. CD34+ cells purified from 10 human CB were cultured in the presence of several cytokines and analysed by flow cytometry, light microscopy and electron microscopy. The NKT cell fraction, defined phenotypically (CD3+CD16+CD56+CD94+) as expressing the invariant T-cell receptor Vα24 and Vβ11, appeared in the CD56hi fractions. Intracytoplasmic staining demonstrated that interferon-γ and interleukin 4 (IL-4) were detected in the CD56hi fractions. IL-15 was essential and, in combination with either flt3-1igand (FL) or stem cell factor (SCF), was sufficient to induce the development of NKT cells. The phenotype of the NKT cell fraction was CD45RO+CD45RA- and CD4+CD8α+. Morphologically, they were very large, with either round or oval nuclei, moderately condensed chromatins, voluminous weakly basophilic cytoplasm and various cytoplasmic granules such as dense core granules, multivesicular bodies, and intermediate form granules. When CD34+ cells purified from bone marrow (BM) were compared with those from CB, the latter were consistently more efficient at generating CD56hi NKT cell fractions. In conclusion, IL-15 in combination with EL and/or SCF can induce the differentiation of NKT cells from human CB CD34+ cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-156
Number of pages9
JournalBritish Journal of Haematology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2003


  • CD34 cells
  • Cord blood
  • Differentiation
  • Interleukin 15
  • NKT cells


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