Activating natural killer (NK) cytotoxicity of canine CD5−CD21− cells requires low surface CD5 density NK cells

Document Type : Full paper (Original article)


1 Department of Veterinary Medicine, School of Veterinary Medicine, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan

2 Animal Cancer Center, College of Bio-Resources and Agriculture, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan


Natural killer (NK) cells play a crucial role in regulating immune functions. Few studies have characterized canine NK cells. We previously demonstrated that canine peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) with a low surface CD5 density (CD5lo) are considered a critical NK population. Natural killer cells in most mammals do not express T-cell markers, but canine CD5lo cells express surface molecules, such as CD3 T-cell receptors. These features make canines unique models for the study of comparative immunology in NK cells. In this study, we discovered that CD5lo and CD21 double-negative (CD5lo-ne/CD2) cells were originally low in NK cytotoxicity and their NK cytotoxicity was highly activated when co-cultured with CD5lo NK cells. The cytotoxicity was not activated when co-cultured with other cell types, such as high surface CD5 density (CD5hi) cells. The CD5lo-negative (CD5lo-ne) population comprises CD5 and CD5hi cells. CD5-cells were low in NK cytotoxicity initially or after culturing with interleukin-2 (IL-2) without CD5lo cells; however, the addition of CD5lo cells in a similar medium markedly enhanced the NK activity. By contrast, CD5hi cells were always NK inactive, irrespective of them being cultured with CD5lo cells or not. We further verified that only the CD5CD21 cells, which were separated from CD5CD21+ cells in the entire CD5 population, showed activated NK activity through CD5lo cell induction. This study is the first to reveal that canine NK cells enhanced NK-inert cells to become NK-cytotoxic cells. Additionally, it is concluded that in beagles, except for CD5lo cells, CD5CD21 cells show NK activity.


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