The CD1d-dependent presentation of lipid antigens to natural killer T (NKT) cells is an integral part of the innate immune system. However, the development of anticancer therapies based on NKT-cell agonists has had limited success so far. Humanizing mice with respect to the CD1d/NKT antigen presentation system will provide a tool to identify novel lipids that exert antineoplastic functions by targeting NKT cells before the initiation of costly and lengthy clinical trials.
Despite a high degree of conservation, subtle but important differences exist between the CD1d antigen presentation pathways of humans and mice. These differences may account for the minimal success of natural killer T (NKT) cell-based antitumor therapies in human clinical trials, which contrast strongly with the powerful antitumor effects in conventional mouse models. To develop an accurate model for in vivo human CD1d (hCD1d) antigen presentation, we have generated a hCD1d knock-in (hCD1d-KI) mouse. In these mice, hCD1d is expressed in a native tissue distribution pattern and supports NKT cell development. Reduced numbers of invariant NKT (iNKT) cells were observed, but at an abundance comparable to that in most normal humans. These iNKT cells predominantly expressed mouse V?8, the homolog of human V?11, and phenotypically resembled human iNKT cells in their reduced expression of CD4. Importantly, iNKT cells in hCD1d knock-in mice exert a potent antitumor function in a melanoma challenge model. Our results show that replacement of mCD1d by hCD1d can select a population of functional iNKT cells closely resembling human iNKT cells. These hCD1d knock-in mice will allow more accurate in vivo modeling of human iNKT cell responses and will facilitate the preclinical assessment of iNKT cell-targeted antitumor therapies.
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