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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Characterization of avian natural killer cells and their intracellular CD3 protein complex.

Natural killer (NK) cell activity appears to be conserved throughout vertebrate development but NK cells have only been well characterized in mammals. Candidate NK cells have been identified in the chicken as cytoplasmic CD3+ and surface T cell receptor (TCR)/CD3- (TCRO) lymphocytes that often express CD8. The fact that the TCRO cells are abundant in the embryonic spleen before T cells enter this organ allowed us to cultivate the embryonic TCRO cells using growth factors derived from activated adult lymphocytes. These TCRO cells were cytotoxic for an NK target cell line. They expressed cell surface CD8, a putative interleukin-2 receptor, CD45 and a receptor for IgG, but did not express CD4, major histocompatibility complex class II or immunoglobulin. Biochemical analysis of the cytoplasmic CD3 antigen revealed two of the three CD3 gamma, delta and epsilon homologues, and RNA transcripts for the third. The CD3 monoclonal antibody also precipitated a 32-kDa dimer that may represent a heterodimer of different CD3 constituents. TCR alpha and beta gene transcripts were not detected in the TCRO cells. These results indicate that the avian TCRO cell is the mammalian NK cell homologue. The shared evolutionary features of T cells and NK cells in birds and mammals support the idea that they derive from a common progenitor.[1]


  1. Characterization of avian natural killer cells and their intracellular CD3 protein complex. Göbel, T.W., Chen, C.L., Shrimpf, J., Grossi, C.E., Bernot, A., Bucy, R.P., Auffray, C., Cooper, M.D. Eur. J. Immunol. (1994) [Pubmed]
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