Natural killer (NK) cells are critical effectors of antiviral immunity. Researchers have therefore sought to characterize the NK cell response to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and the virus that causes it, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The NK cells of patients with severe COVID-19 undergo extensive phenotypic and functional changes. For example, the NK cells from critically ill patients with COVID-19 are highly activated and exhausted, with poor cytotoxic function and cytokine production upon stimulation. The NK cell response to SARS-CoV-2 is also modulated by changes induced in virally infected cells, including the ability of a viral peptide to bind HLA-E, preventing NK cells from receiving inhibitory signals, and the downregulation of major histocompatibility complex class I and ligands for the activating receptor NKG2D. These changes have important implications for the ability of infected cells to escape NK cell killing. The implications of these findings for antibody-dependent NK cell activity in COVID-19 are also reviewed. Despite these advances in the understanding of the NK cell response to SARS-CoV-2, there remain critical gaps in our current understanding and a wealth of avenues for future research on this topic.
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Natural killer cell responses during SARS-CoV-2 infection and vaccination in people living with HIV-1
Scientific Reports Open Access 03 November 2023
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Funding for C.A.B. was provided by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, 1016687; the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), U19AI057229; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, OPP1113682; and the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub Investigator Award. Funding for M.J.L. was provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), 1F31AI172319-01.
C.A.B. reports compensation for consulting and/or SAB membership from Catamaran Bio, DeepCell, Immunebridge, Sangamo Therapeutics and Bicycle Tx on topics unrelated to this review. M.J.L. declares no competing interests.
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Lee, M.J., Blish, C.A. Defining the role of natural killer cells in COVID-19. Nat Immunol 24, 1628–1638 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41590-023-01560-8
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