Previously we described an involvement of the C-type lectin receptor CD94 and the neuronal adhesion molecule CD56 in the interaction of natural killer (NK) cells with Hsp70-protein and Hsp70-peptide TKD. Therefore, differences in the cell surface density of these NK cell–specific markers were investigated comparatively in CD94-sorted, primary NK cells and in established NK cell lines NK-92, NKL, and YT after TKD stimulation. Initially, all NK cell types were positive for CD94; the CD56 expression varied. After stimulation with TKD, the mean fluorescence intensity (mfi) of CD94 and CD56 was upregulated selectively in primary NK cells but not in NK cell lines. Other cell surface markers including natural cytotoxicity receptors remained unaffected in all cell types. CD3-enriched T cells neither expressing CD94 nor CD56 served as a negative control. High receptor densities of CD94/CD56 were associated with an increased cytolytic response against Hsp70 membrane–positive tumor target cells. The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I–negative, Hsp70-positive target cell line K562 was efficiently lysed by primary NK cells and to a lower extent by NK lines NK-92 and NKL. YT and CD3-positive T cells were unable to kill K562 cells. MHC class-I and Hsp70-positive, Cx tumor target cells were efficiently lysed only by CD94-sorted, TKD-stimulated NK cells with high CD94/CD56 mfi values. Hsp70-specificity was demonstrated by antibody blocking assays, comparative phenotyping of the tumor target cells, and by correlating the amount of membrane-bound Hsp70 with the sensitivity to lysis. Remarkably, a 14-mer peptide (LKD), exhibiting only 1 amino acid exchange at position 1 (T to L), neither stimulated Hsp70-reactivity nor resulted in an upregulated CD94 expression on primary NK cells. Taken together our findings indicate that an MHC class I–independent, Hsp70 reactivity could be associated with elevated cell surface densities of CD94 and CD56 after TKD stimulation.
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