eISSN: 1644-4124
ISSN: 1426-3912
Central European Journal of Immunology
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vol. 38

Natural killer and natural killer T-like cells in splenectomised patients

Ewelina Grywalska
Justyna Markowicz
Dorota Siwicka
Marcin Pasiarski
Agata Surdacka
Agnieszka Grafka
Agnieszka Malec
Mateusz Bilski
Tomasz Roman
Jacek Roliński

(Centr Eur J Immunol 2013; 38 (3): 372-379)
Online publish date: 2013/10/28
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Introduction: Natural killer cells (NK cells) present a unique ability to recognize and kill cells infected with a variety of pathogens, regardless of prior immunization. Natural killer T-like cells (NKT-like cells) are increased in clinical conditions associated with chronic activation of the immune system. Splenectomised patients are susceptible to infections, especially those caused by encapsulated bacteria. While the knowledge about humoral immunity disturbances in asplenic persons is well established, the abnormalities of cellular response remain still under investigation.

Aim of the study was to estimate the impact of splenectomy on postoperative quantitative changes of NK cells (CD3–/CD16+CD56+) and NKT-like cells (CD3+/CD16+CD56+) as two important lymphocyte subsets involved in host defence against various pathogens.

Material and methods: Assessment of NK and NKT-like cells was performed by the flow cytometry in a group of 100 splenectomised patients and 20 healthy volunteers.

Results: Patients with secondary asplenia displayed a decreased ratio of NK cells (CD3–/ CD16+CD56+) (p = 0.012) and a higher ratio of NKT-like cells (CD3+/CD16+CD56+) (p = 0.001) in comparison to controls. Patients who underwent elective splenectomy presented a higher amount of NK cells (CD3–/CD16+CD56+) than those with post-traumatic spleen removal (p = 0.035). The time since surgery negatively correlated with NK cells counts (CD3–/CD16+CD56+). In those patients who noticed increased susceptibility to infections, NK cells number (CD3–/CD16+CD56+) was lower (p = = 0.007) than in those patients who did not observe any change in prevalence of infections. Moreover, those patients who noticed an increased infection rate had higher frequencies of NKT-like cells (CD3–/ CD16+CD56+) comparing to those who did not observe any change in the prevalence of infections (p = 0.006).

Conclusions: This study provides a further piece of information on the complex immune disturbances in splenectomised individuals leading to the increased risk of bacterial infections. Results obtained suggest that monitoring of NK and NKT-like cells number may provide useful information for determining asplenia-related immunosuppression.

splenectomy, NK cells, NKT-like cells, immunity, infections

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