About this Research Topic
Natural killer cells (NK cells) are large granular lymphocytes that play an integral part in cellular innate immune responses against viruses and cancer transformation. Since their original discovery in the mid-1970s, it has become apparent that NK cells are more than just natural 'killers' with constitutive cytolytic ability. In addition to cytotoxicity, NK cells are potent producers of cytokines and chemokines that activate, recruit and suppress other cells of the innate and adaptive immune arm, shaping the overall immune response. Their function is determined by the net sum of activating and inhibitory signals, which is further fine-tuned by local environmental factors. To date, the versatile functions and plasticity of NK cell subsets are not fully appreciated. Over recent years, key discoveries have been made to indicate that NK cell subsets are also capable of demonstrating immunological `memory', sharing epigenetic features with CD8 T cells and imbued with enhanced functionality. In addition, the identification of innate lymphoid cells in various tissues has drawn increased attention to the role of NK cells in distinct anatomical compartments, revealing the vast phenotypic and functional diversity of NK cell subsets within the human body and their differential composition in peripheral blood and tissues. However, knowledge of these specialized/resident populations and their differential role in the context of virus infection, especially in humans, remains incomplete. Further exploration and understanding of how NK cell subsets mediate protective versus pathogenic roles during viral infections and their tissue-specific roles would allow for specific targeting of NK cell subsets in therapeutic interventions.
In this Research Topic, we welcome submissions of Original Research, Review and Opinion articles that present novel concepts and new data on the contributions of NK cells and specific subpopulations, including tissue-resident subsets, in immune responses to virus infection and virus-related cancers germane to human health. Specifically, topics of interest include, but are not limited to the following aspects of NK cell immune biology:
i) The relative contributions of the diverse and often conflicting functions of NK cells to antiviral immunity and outcome of infection including direct antiviral, immunoregulatory and pathogenic roles
ii) Cellular mechanisms that determine NK cell function and immunoregulatory role during virus infection that can influence the development of cell-based therapies and novel immunization strategies
iii) Novel insights into the generation of adaptive/memory NK cell subsets in response to virus infection
iv) Characterization of tissue-specific NK cell subpopulations with adaptive/memory and regulatory properties that can mediate protection against virus infection and virus-induced cancers
Such topics would add to the current body of evidence and increase our knowledge base of the underlying mechanisms of direct anti-viral, immunoregulatory and tumor surveillance roles of NK cells particularly in humans, ranging from basic NK cell research to the translational platform.
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.