Harnessing the versatility of invariant NKT cells in a stepwise approach to sepsis immunotherapy

Joshua Choi, Tina S. Mele, Steven A. Porcelli, Paul B. Savage, S. M. Mansour Haeryfar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Sepsis results from a heavy-handed response to infection that may culminate in organ failure and death. Many patients who survive acute sepsis become immunosuppressed and succumb to opportunistic infections. Therefore, to be successful, sepsis immunotherapies must target both the initial and the protracted phase of the syndrome to relieve early immunopathology and late immunosuppression, respectively. Invariant NKT (iNKT) cells are attractive therapeutic targets in sepsis. However, repeated treatments with a-galactosylceramide, the prototypic glycolipid ligand of iNKT cells, result in anergy. We designed a double-hit treatment that allows iNKT cells to escape anergy and exert beneficial effects in biphasic sepsis. We tested the efficacy of this approach in the sublethal cecal ligation and puncture mouse model, which mirrors polymicrobial sepsis with progression to an immunosuppressed state. Septic mice were treated with [(C2S, 3S, 4R)-1-O-(a-D-galactopyranosyl)-N-tetracosanoyl-2-amino-1,3,4-nonanetriol] (OCH), a TH2-polarizing iNKT cell agonist, before they received a-galactosylceramide. This regimen reduced the morbidity and mortality of cecal ligation and puncture, induced a transient but robust IFN-g burst within a proinflammatory cytokine/chemokine landscape, transactivated NK cells, increased MHC class II expression on macrophages, and restored delayed-type hypersensitivity to a model hapten, consistent with recovery of immunocompetence in protracted sepsis. Structurally distinct TH2-polarizing agonists varied in their ability to replace OCH as the initial hit, with their lipid chain length being a determinant of efficacy. The proposed approach effectively exploits iNKT cells’ versatility in biphasic sepsis and may have translational potentials in the development of new therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)386-397
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 15 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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