NKp46+CD3+ cells: a novel nonconventional T cell subset in cattle exhibiting both NK cell and T cell features

The NKp46 receptor demonstrates a high degree of lineage specificity, being expressed almost exclusively in NK cells. Previous studies have demonstrated NKp46 expression by T cells, but NKp46+CD3+ cells are rare and almost universally associated with NKp46 acquisition by T cells following stimulation. In this study we demonstrate the existence of a population of NKp46+CD3+ cells resident in normal bovine PBMCs that includes cells of both the ?? TCR+ and ?? TCR+ lineages and is present at a frequency of 0.1–1.7%. NKp46+CD3+ cells express transcripts for a broad repertoire of both NKRs and TCRs and also the CD3?, DAP10, and Fc?R1? but not DAP12 adaptor proteins. In vitro functional analysis of NKp46+CD3+ cells confirm that NKp46, CD16, and CD3 signaling pathways are all functionally competent and capable of mediating/redirecting cytolysis. However, only CD3 cross-ligation elicits IFN-? release. NKp46+CD3+ cells exhibit cytotoxic activity against autologous Theileria parva–infected cells in vitro, and during in vivo challenge with this parasite an expansion of NKp46+CD3+ cells was observed in some animals, indicating the cells have the potential to act as an anti-pathogen effector population. The results in this study identify and describe a novel nonconventional NKp46+CD3+ T cell subset that is phenotypically and functionally distinct from conventional NK and T cells. The ability to exploit both NKRs and TCRs suggests these cells may fill a functional niche at the interface of innate and adaptive immune responses.

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