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The aim of the current study was to investigate the frequency, phenotype and functional activity of natural killer (NK) cells and CD56+ T-cells in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid and peripheral blood of patients with pulmonary sarcoidosis when compared with healthy volunteers, using staining with a panel of monoclonal antibodies followed by flow cytometry. The results revealed that the majority of the lung NK cell subpopulation expressed CD56(bright). In contrast, there was a predominant CD56(dim) subset in the blood of both patients and healthy controls. Most lung NK cells expressed C-type lectin-like human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-E-specific inhibitory receptor (i.e. CD94/NKG2A), but only a few lung NK cells expressed killer cell immunoglobulin-like inhibitory receptors specific for HLA-A, -B or -C molecules. In addition, a significantly increased number of CD56+ T-cells were observed in the blood of patients when compared with controls. Upon in vitro stimulation, both lung NK and CD56+ T-cells produced considerable amounts of interferon-gamma and tumour necrosis factor-alpha. Thus, in the lungs of patients with pulmonary sarcoidosis, a distinct phenotype of natural killer cells with the capacity to produce cytokines and actively participate in the T-helper 1-like inflammatory response associated with sarcoidosis was identified.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur respir j

Publication Date





77 - 85


Adult, Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid, CD56 Antigen, Case-Control Studies, Cells, Cultured, Female, Flow Cytometry, Humans, Inflammation Mediators, Killer Cells, Natural, Lymphocyte Activation, Male, Middle Aged, Phenotype, Prognosis, Reference Values, Risk Assessment, Sarcoidosis, Pulmonary, Sensitivity and Specificity, Severity of Illness Index, T-Lymphocytes