The cytokine-induced killer cells (CIK) have been reported to have potent cytotoxicity against a variety of tumor cells including multiple myleoma (MM) cells. The mechanisms that CIK cell recognizing MM cells remain unknown. Recent studies indicated that the interaction between NKG2D receptor and NKG2D ligands plays an important role in inducing cytotoxicity against various target cells by natural killer cells (NK). We suspect whether NKG2D receptor and NKG2D ligands interaction is also responsible for the killing of MM cells by CIK as the same way did NK cells. We expanded CIK cells from healthy controls with interferon (IFN)-γ, CD3 monoclonal antibodies (mAb) and interleukin-2 (IL-2), and checked expression of NK cell receptors on CIK cells by flow cytometry. About 86% bulk CIK cells expressed NKG2D receptor but not other NK receptors, such as CD158a, CD158b and NCRs. We analyzed NKG2D ligands expression in MM patients by flow cytometry, primary plasma cells from 8 out of 13 (62%) MM patients expressed different levels of ULBPs or MICA/B on the cell surface. Interestingly, when stimulated with MM cell line U266 that expressed some levels of MICA/B, only NKG2D expressing CIK cells released IFN-γ. CIK cells showed cytotoxicity against NKG2D ligands expressing U266 and primary MM cells, and the cytotoxicity was partially blocked by treating CIK with anti-NKG2D antibody. We conclude that NKG2D-NKG2D ligand interaction may be one of the mechanisms by which CIK cells kill MM cells.
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