Type II NKT Cells and Their Emerging Role in Health and Disease [BRIEF REVIEWS]


NKT cells recognize lipid Ags presented by a class I MHC-like molecule CD1d, a member of the CD1 family. Although most initial studies on NKT cells focused on a subset with semi-invariant TCR termed invariant NKT cells, the majority of CD1d-restricted lipid-reactive human T cells express diverse TCRs and are termed type II NKT cells. These cells constitute a distinct population of circulating and tissue-resident effector T cells with immune-regulatory properties. They react to a growing list of self- as well as non–self-lipid ligands, and share some properties with both invariant NKT and conventional T cells. An emerging body of evidence points to their role in the regulation of immunity to pathogens/tumors and in autoimmune/metabolic disorders. An improved understanding of the biology of these cells and the ability to manipulate their function may be of therapeutic benefit in diverse disease conditions.


  • This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (R01 CA100660 and R01 AA020864 to V.K. and CA106802 and CA197603 to M.V.D.).

  • Abbreviations used in this article:

    dendritic cell
    experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis
    Gaucher disease
    invariant NKT cell
    plasmacytoid DC.
  • Received August 11, 2016.
  • Accepted November 11, 2016.

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