The lungs, a special site that is frequently challenged by tumors, pathogens and other environmental insults, are populated by large numbers of innate immune cells. Among these, natural killer (NK) cells are gaining increasing attention. Recent studies have revealed that NK cells are heterogeneous populations consisting of distinct subpopulations with diverse characteristics, some of which are determined by their local tissue microenvironment. Most current information about NK cells comes from studies of NK cells from the peripheral blood of humans and NK cells from the spleen and bone marrow of mice. However, the functions and phenotypes of lung NK cells differ from those of NK cells in other tissues. Here, we provide an overview of human and mouse lung NK cells in the context of homeostasis, pathogenic infections, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer, mainly focusing on their phenotype, function, frequency, and their potential role in pathogenesis or immune defense. A comprehensive understanding of the biology of NK cells in the lungs will aid the development of NK cell-based immunotherapies for the treatment of lung diseases.
Cong, J., & Wei, H. (2019). Natural killer cells in the lungs. Frontiers in Immunology. Frontiers Media S.A. https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2019.01416