Almost 20 years ago, CD1d tetramers were developed to track invariant natural killer T (NKT) cells based on their specificity, and to define developmental steps during which differentiation markers and functional features are progressively acquired from early NKT cell precursor to fully mature NKT cell subsets. Based on these findings, a linear developmental model was proposed and subsequently used by all studies investigating the specific role of factors that control NKT cell development. More recently, based on intracellular staining patterns of lineage-specific transcription factors such as T-bet, GATA-3, promyelocytic leukemia zinc finger and RORγt, a lineage differentiation model was proposed for NKT cell development. Currently, studies on NKT cells development present lineage differentiation model data in addition to the linear maturation model. In the perspective presented here, we discuss current knowledge relating to NKT cell developmental models and particularly focus on the approaches and strategies, some of which appear nebulous, used to define NKT cell developmental stages and subsets.© 2020 Australian and New Zealand Society for Immunology Inc.
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