Synaptic secretion from human natural killer cells is diverse and includes supramolecular attack particles

Ashley R Ambrose, Khodor S Hazime, Jonathan D Worboys, Olatz Niembro-Vivanco, Daniel M Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Natural killer (NK) cells form immune synapses to ascertain the state of health of cells they encounter. If a target cell triggers NK cell cytotoxicity, lytic granules containing proteins including perforin and granzyme B, are secreted into the synaptic cleft inducing target cell death. Secretion of these proteins also occurs from activated cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) where they have recently been reported to complex with thrombospondin-1 (TSP-1) in specialized structures termed supramolecular attack particles (SMAPs). Here, using an imaging method to define the position of each NK cell after removal, secretions from individual cells were assessed. NK cell synaptic secretion, triggered by ligation of NKp30 or NKG2D, included vesicles and SMAPs which contained TSP-1, perforin, and granzyme B. Individual NK cells secreted SMAPs, CD63+ vesicles, or both. A similar number of SMAPs were secreted per cell for both NK cells and CTLs, but NK cell SMAPs were larger. These data establish an unexpected diversity in NK cell synaptic secretions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23717-23720
Number of pages4
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Issue number38
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sept 2020


  • Granzymes/metabolism
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural/chemistry
  • Perforin/metabolism
  • Synapses/chemistry
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic/chemistry
  • Thrombospondin 1/metabolism


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