Invariant natural killer T cells recognize glycolipids from pathogenic Gram-positive bacteria

Yuki Kinjo, Petr Illarionov, José Luis Vela, Bo Pei, Enrico Girardi, Xiangming Li, Yali Li, Masakazu Imamura, Yukihiro Kaneko, Akiko Okawara, Yoshitsugu Miyazaki, Anaximandro Gómez-Velasco, Paul Rogers, Samira Dahesh, Satoshi Uchiyama, Archana Khurana, Kazuyoshi Kawahara, Hasan Yesilkaya, Peter W. Andrew, Chi Huey WongKazuyoshi Kawakami, Victor Nizet, Gurdyal S. Besra, Moriya Tsuji, Dirk M. Zajonc, Mitchell Kronenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

269 Citations (Scopus)


Natural killer T cells (NKT cells) recognize glycolipid antigens presented by CD1d. These cells express an evolutionarily conserved, invariant T cell antigen receptor (TCR), but the forces that drive TCR conservation have remained uncertain. Here we show that NKT cells recognized diacylglycerol-containing glycolipids from Streptococcus pneumoniae, the leading cause of community-acquired pneumonia, and group B Streptococcus, which causes neonatal sepsis and meningitis. Furthermore, CD1d-dependent responses by NKT cells were required for activation and host protection. The glycolipid response was dependent on vaccenic acid, which is present in low concentrations in mammalian cells. Our results show how microbial lipids position the sugar for recognition by the invariant TCR and, most notably, extend the range of microbes recognized by this conserved TCR to several clinically important bacteria.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)966-974
Number of pages9
JournalNature Immunology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Oct

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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