Natural killer (NK) cells are widely distributed in lymphoid and non-lymphoid tissues, but little is known about the recirculation of NK cells between blood and tissues. This is relevant to understanding recirculation in the steady-state and also for determining the roles for NK cells in vaccine-induced immunity and responses to infection. Therefore, the percentage of NK cells and their phenotype across peripheral blood, afferent lymph and lymph nodes in steady-state conditions was investigated in cattle using the pseudo-afferent lymphatic cannulation model. CD2+ CD25lo NK cells were the predominant subset of NK cells within the blood. In contrast, CD2− CD25hi NK cells were the main subset present within the skin-draining afferent lymphatic vessels and lymph nodes, indicating that CD2− NK cells are the principal NK cell subset trafficking to lymph nodes via the afferent lymphatic vessel. Furthermore, a low percentage of NK cells were present in efferent lymph, which were predominantly of the CD2− subset, indicating that NK cells can egress from lymph nodes and return to circulation in steady-state conditions. These compartmentalization data indicate that NK cells represent a population of recirculating lymphocytes in steady-state conditions and therefore may be important during immune responses to vaccination or infection.
- natural killer cells