IL-12 is an essential cytokine involved in the generation of memory or memory-like NK cells. Mouse cytomegalovirus infection triggers NK receptor-induced, ligand-specific IL-12–dependent NK cell expansion, yet specific IL-12 stimulation ex vivo leading to NK cell proliferation and expansion is not established. Here, we show that IL-12 alone can sustain human primary NK cell survival without providing IL-2 or IL-15 but was insufficient to promote human NK cell proliferation. IL-12 signaling analysis revealed STAT5 phosphorylation and weak mTOR activation, which was enhanced by activating NK receptor upregulation and crosslinking leading to STAT5-dependent, rapamycin-sensitive, or TGFβ-sensitive NK cell IL-12–dependent expansion, independently of IL-12 receptor upregulation. Prolonged IL-2 culture did not impair IL-12–dependent ligand-specific NK cell expansion. These findings demonstrate that activating NK receptor stimulation promotes differential IL-12 signaling, leading to human NK cell expansion, and suggest adopting strategies to provide IL-12 signaling in vivo for ligand-specific IL-2–primed NK cell–based therapies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy