Natural killer cells involved in tumour immune escape of hepatocellular carcinomar.


Department of Pathology, Institute of Basic Medicine, Shandong Academy of Medical Sciences, Jinan 250062, China. Electronic address: [Email]


Natural killer cells are the first line of host immune surveillance and play major roles in the defence against infection and tumours. Hepatic NK cells exhibit unique phenotypic and functional characteristics compared to circulating and spleen NK cells, such as higher levels of cytolytic activity and cytotoxicity mediators against tumour cells. However, the activities of NK cells may be reversed during tumour progression. Recent studies demonstrated that hepatic NK cells were exhausted in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and exhibited impaired cytolytic activity and decreased production of effector cytokines. The present review discusses current knowledge on the role of exhausted NK cells in promoting HCC development and the mechanisms contributing to tumour immune escape, including an imbalance of activating and inhibitory receptors on NK cells, abnormal receptor-ligand interaction, and cross-talk with immune cells and other stromal cells in the tumour environment. We provide a fundamental basis for further study of innate immunity in tumour progression and serve the purpose of exploring new HCC treatment strategies.


Hepatocellular carcinoma,Immune escape,Natural killer cells,