Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 37486946
Link to DOI – 10.1371/journal.ppat.1011159
PLoS Pathog 2023 Jul; 19(7): e1011159
NK cells are important mediators of innate immunity and play an essential role for host protection against infection, although their responses to bacteria are poorly understood. Recently NK cells were shown to display memory properties, as characterized by an epigenetic signature leading to a stronger secondary response. Although NK cell memory could be a promising mechanism to fight against infection, it has not been described upon bacterial infection. Using a mouse model, we reveal that NK cells develop specific and long-term memory following sub-lethal infection with the extracellular pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae. Memory NK cells display intrinsic sensing and response to bacteria in vitro, in a manner that is enhanced post-bacterial infection. In addition, their transfer into naïve mice confers protection from lethal infection for at least 12 weeks. Interestingly, NK cells display enhanced cytotoxic molecule production upon secondary stimulation and their protective role is dependent on Perforin and independent of IFNγ. Thus, our study identifies a new role for NK cells during bacterial infection, opening the possibility to harness innate immune memory for therapeutic purposes.