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Highly Accessed Open Badges Review

Natural killer cells in human autoimmune disorders

Leslie A Fogel1, Wayne M Yokoyama2 and Anthony R French1*

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Pediatric Rheumatology, Department of Pediatrics, Washington University, Box 8208, 660 South Euclid Avenue, St Louis, MO 63110, USA

2 Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Division of Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, MO 63110, USA

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2013, 15:216  doi:10.1186/ar4232

Published: 11 July 2013


Natural killer (NK) cells are innate lymphocytes that play a critical role in early host defense against viruses. Through their cytolytic capacity and generation of cytokines and chemokines, NK cells modulate the activity of other components of the innate and adaptive immune systems and have been implicated in the initiation or maintenance of autoimmune responses. This review focuses on recent research elucidating a potential immunoregulatory role for NK cells in T-cell and B-cell-mediated autoimmune disorders in humans, with a particular focus on multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematous. A better understanding of the contributions of NK cells to the development of autoimmunity may lead to novel therapeutic targets in these diseases.