Blood Journal
Leading the way in experimental and clinical research in hematology

Hematopoietic stem cells are not direct cytotoxic targets of natural killer cells

  1. HL Aguila and
  2. IL Weissman
  1. Department of Pathology Stanford University School of Medicine, CA. 94305, USA.


Bone marrow (BM) transplants from one individual to an irradiated histoincompatible individual of the same species are rejected. In mice, the primary host barrier cells that recognize bone marrow grafts bearing hematopoietic histocompatibility antigens bear surface markers of natural killer (NK) lymphocytes. Because of the innate ability of NK cells to kill susceptible targets, it has been proposed that the cytotoxic bone marrow graft rejection. To test this hypothesis, we purified hematopoietic stem cells from mice and incubated them with purified populations of actively cytotoxic allogeneic and semisyngeneic NK cells, followed by analysis of the ability of the treated hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) to rescue lethally irradiated syngeneic animals. Such rescue was unimpaired. Also, HSC allografts were transplanted into transgenic mice deficient in NK and killer T-cell cytotoxicity generated by expressing diphtheria toxin A chain under the control of granzyme A promoter. Allogeneic HSCs were susceptible to allogeneic restriction in these mice, implying that the effector functions of NK marker-positive cells do not require NK cell cytotoxicity.