Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 15661875
J. Immunol. 2005 Feb;174(3):1213-21
NK cells differentiate in adult mice from bone marrow hemopoietic progenitors. Cytokines, including those that signal via receptors using the common cytokine receptor gamma-chain (gamma(c)), have been implicated at various stages of NK cell development. We have previously described committed NK cell precursors (NKPs), which have the capacity to generate NK cells, but not B, T, erythroid, or myeloid cells, after in vitro culture or transfer to a fetal thymic microenvironment. NKPs express the CD122 Ag (beta chain of the receptors for IL-2/IL-15), but lack other mature NK markers, including NK1.1, CD49b (DX5), or members of the Ly49 gene family. In this report, we have analyzed the roles for gamma(c)-dependent cytokines in the generation of bone marrow NKP and in their subsequent differentiation to mature NK cells in vivo. Normal numbers of NKPs are found in gamma(c)-deficient mice, suggesting that NK cell commitment is not dependent on IL-2, IL-4, IL-7, IL-9, IL-15, or IL-21. Although IL-2, IL-4, and IL-7 have been reported to influence NK cell differentiation, we find that mice deficient in any or all of these cytokines have normal NK cell numbers, phenotype, and effector functions. In contrast, IL-15 plays a dominant role in early NK cell differentiation by maintaining normal numbers of immature and mature NK cells in the bone marrow and spleen. Surprisingly, the few residual NK cells generated in absence of IL-15 appear relatively mature, expressing a variety of Ly49 receptors and demonstrating lytic and cytokine production capacity.