Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

One of the most fundamental activities of the adaptive immune system is to kill infected cells and tumor cells. Two distinct pathways mediate this process, both of which are facilitated by a cytotoxic immunological synapse. While traditionally thought of as innate immune cells, natural killer (NK) cells are now appreciated to have the capacity for long-term adaptation to chemical and viral insults. These cells integrate multiple positive and negative signals through NK cell cytotoxic or inhibitory synapses. The traditional CD8(+)alphabeta T-cell receptor-positive cells are among the best models for the concept of an immunological synapse, in which vectoral signaling is linked to directed secretion in a stable interface to induce apoptotic cell death in an infected cell. Large-scale molecular organization in synapses generated a number of hypotheses. Studies in the past 5 years have started to provide clear answers regarding the validity of these models. In vivo imaging approaches have provided some hints as to the physiologic relevance of these processes with great promise for the future. This review provides an overview of work on cytotoxic immunological synapses and suggests pathways forward in applying this information to the development of therapeutic agents.

Original publication




Journal article


Immunol rev

Publication Date





24 - 34


Animals, Apoptosis, Cytotoxicity, Immunologic, Humans, Immunological Synapses, Killer Cells, Natural, Lymphocyte Activation, Secretory Vesicles, Signal Transduction, T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic