Transcriptome and Function of Novel Immunosuppressive Autoreactive Invariant Natural Killer T Cells That Are Absent in Progressive Multiple Sclerosis

Background and Objective

The aim of this study was to determine whether natural killer T (NKT) cells, including invariant (i) NKT cells, have clinical value in preventing the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS) by examining the mechanisms by which a distinct self-peptide induces a novel, protective invariant natural killer T cell (iNKT cell) subset.


We performed a transcriptomic and functional analysis of iNKT cells that were reactive to a human collagen type II self-peptide, hCII707-721, measuring differentially induced genes, cytokines, and suppressive capacity.


We report the first transcriptomic profile of human conventional vs novel hCII707-721–reactive iNKT cells. We determined that hCII707-721 induces protective iNKT cells that are found in the blood of healthy individuals but not progressive patients with MS (PMS). By transcriptomic analysis, we observed that hCII707-721 promotes their development and proliferation, favoring the splicing of full-length AKT serine/threonine kinase 1 (AKT1) and effector function of this unique lineage by upregulating tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-related genes. Furthermore, hCII707-721–reactive iNKT cells did not upregulate interferon (IFN)-, interleukin (IL)-4, IL-10, IL-13, or IL-17 by RNA-seq or at the protein level, unlike the response to the glycolipid alpha-galactosylceramide. hCII707-721–reactive iNKT cells increased TNFα only at the protein level and suppressed autologous-activated T cells through FAS-FAS ligand (FAS-FASL) and TNFα-TNF receptor I signaling but not TNF receptor II.


Based on their immunomodulatory properties, NKT cells have a potential value in the treatment of autoimmune diseases, such as MS. These significant findings suggest that endogenous peptide ligands can be used to expand iNKT cells, without causing a cytokine storm, constituting a potential immunotherapy for autoimmune conditions, including PMS.

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