Profiling of the human natural killer cell receptor-ligand repertoire

Vendrame, E., McKechnie, J. L., Ranganath, T. et al.

Natural killer (NK) cells are among the first responders to viral infections. The ability of NK cells to rapidly recognize and kill virally infected cells is regulated by their expression of germline-encoded inhibitory and activating receptors. The engagement of these receptors by their cognate ligands on target cells determines whether the intercellular interaction will result in NK cell killing. This protocol details the design and optimization of two complementary mass cytometry (CyTOF) panels. One panel was designed to phenotype NK cells based on receptor expression. The other panel was designed to interrogate expression of known ligands for NK cell receptors on several immune cell subsets. Together, these two panels allow for the profiling of the human NK cell receptor-ligand repertoire. Furthermore, this protocol also details the process by which we stain samples for CyTOF. This process has been optimized for improved reproducibility and standardization. An advantage of CyTOF is its ability to measure over 40 markers in each panel, with minimal signal overlap, allowing researchers to capture the breadth of the NK cell receptor-ligand repertoire. Palladium barcoding also reduces inter-sample variation, as well as consumption of reagents, making it easier to stain samples with each panel in parallel. Limitations of this protocol include the relatively low throughput of CyTOF and the inability to recover cells after analysis. These panels were designed for the analysis of clinical samples from patients suffering from acute and chronic viral infections, including dengue virus, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and influenza. However, they can be utilized in any setting to investigate the human NK cell receptor-ligand repertoire. Importantly, these methods can be applied broadly to the design and execution of future CyTOF panels.


Vendrame, E., McKechnie, J. L., Ranganath, T. et al. "Profiling of the human natural killer cell receptor-ligand repertoire" Journal of Visualized Experiments (2021): doi: 10.3791/61912