NK T cells provide lipid antigen-specific cognate help for B cells

Elizabeth A. Leadbetter, Manfred Brigl, Petr Illarionov, Nadia Cohen, Megan C. Luteran, Shiv Pillai, Gurdyal S. Besra, Michael B. Brenner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

163 Scopus citations


The mechanisms of T cell help for production of antilipid antibodies are largely unknown. This study shows that invariant NK T cells (iNK T cells) and B cells cooperate in a model of antilipid antigen-specific antibody responses. We use a model haptenated lipid molecule, 4-hydroxy-3-nitrophenyl- αGalactosylCeramide (NP-αGalCer), to demonstrate that iNK T cells provide cognate help to lipid-antigen-presenting B cells. B cells proliferate and IgG anti-NP is produced from in vivo-immunized mice and in vitro cocultures of B and NK T cells after exposure to NP-αGalCer, but not closely related control glycolipids. This B cell response is absent in CD1d-/- and Jα18-/- mice but not CD4-/- mice. The antibody response to NP-αGalCer is dominated by the IgM, IgG3, and IgG2c isotypes, and marginal zone B cells stimulate better in vitro lipid antigen-driven proliferation than follicular B cells, suggesting an important role for this B cell subset. iNK T cell help for B cells is shown to involve cognate help from CD1d-instructed lipid-specific iNK T cells, with help provided via CD40L, B7-1/B7-2, and IFN-γ, but not IL-4. This model provides evidence of iNK T cell help for antilipid antibody production, an important aspect of infections, autoimmune diseases, and vaccine development. Our findings also now allow prediction of those microbial antigens that would be expected to elicit cognate iNKT cell help for antibody production, namely those that can stimulate iNKT cells and at the same time have a polar moiety that can be recognized by antibodies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8339-8344
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number24
StatePublished - Jun 17 2008


  • Antibodies
  • CD1d
  • T cell helper
  • iNK T cell
  • α-galactosylceramide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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