Regulation of the human NK cell compartment by pathogens and vaccines

Martin R. Goodier, Eleanor Riley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Natural killer cells constitute a phenotypically diverse population of innate lymphoid cells with a broad functional spectrum. Classically defined as cytotoxic lymphocytes with the capacity to eliminate cells lacking self-MHC or expressing markers of stress or neoplastic transformation, critical roles for NK cells in immunity to infection, in the regulation of immune responses and as vaccine-induced effector cells have also emerged. A crucial feature of NK cell biology is their capacity to integrate signals from pathogen-, tumour- or stress-induced innate pathways and from antigen-specific immune responses. The extent to which innate and acquired immune mediators influence NK cell effector function is influenced by the maturation and differentiation state of the NK cell compartment; moreover NK cell differentiation is driven in part by exposure to infection. Pathogens can thus mould the NK cell response to maximise their own success and/or minimise the damage they cause. Here we review recent evidence that pathogen- and vaccine-derived signals influence the differentiation, adaptation and subsequent effector function of human NK cells.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1244
Number of pages13
JournalClinical & translational immunology
Early online date18 Jan 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Jan 2021


  • NK cells
  • differentiation
  • viruses
  • malaria
  • vaccines


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