Interaction dynamics between Natural Killer (NK) cells and cancer targets have been the topic of many previous investigations, but the underlying rate-limiting kinetics and heterogeneity remain poorly understood. In this study, using quantitative single cell microscopy assay, we elucidate the differential dynamic control of NK-cancer cell interaction by multiple cytotoxic pathways. We found primary human NK cell, unlike NK cell line, killed adherent cancer target mainly by lytic granule-independent mechanism, in particular through Fas ligand (FasL). And the distinct kinetics of FasL and lytic granule pathway resulted in significant cell-to-cell variability. Killing by FasL occurred slowly, requiring transient, often multiple NK-cancer cell conjugations that gradually activated caspase-8, while lytic granule triggered rapid cytotoxicity by a switch-like induction of granzyme-B upon a single, prolonged conjugation. Moreover, interleukin 2 was observed to enhance both cytotoxic mechanisms by promoting target recognition by NK cell and increasing NK-cancer cell interaction frequency. Our results not only identify the key points of variation in the rate-limiting kinetics of NK-cancer cell cytotoxic interaction but also point to the importance of non-lytic granule mechanism for developing NK cell therapy.
Scopus Subject Areas
- Cytotoxic lymphocyte
- Immune-cancer cell interaction
- Natural Killer cell
- Single cell dynamics