Synthetic glycolipid activators of natural killer T cells as immunotherapeutic agents

Leandro J. Carreño, Noemí A. Saavedra-Ávila, Steven A. Porcelli

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Certain types of glycolipids have been found to have remarkable immunomodulatory properties as a result of their ability to activate specific T lymphocyte populations with an extremely wide range of immune effector properties. The most extensively studied glycolipid reactive T cells are known as invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells. The antigen receptors of these cells specifically recognize certain glycolipids, most notably glycosphingolipids with α-anomeric monosaccharides, presented by the major histocompatibility complex class I-like molecule CD1d. Once activated, iNKT cells can secrete a very diverse array of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines to modulate innate and adaptive immune responses. Thus, glycolipid-mediated activation of iNKT cells has been explored for immunotherapy in a variety of disease states, including cancer and a range of infections. In this review, we discuss the design of synthetic glycolipid activators for iNKT cells, their impact on adaptive immune responses and their use to modulate iNKT cell responses to improve immunity against infections and cancer. Current challenges in translating results from preclinical animal studies to humans are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere69
JournalClinical and Translational Immunology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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