When injected intravenously into mice, the drug α-galactosylceramide (αGalCer) — originally isolated from molluscs —binds to CD1d, mediating a rapid natural killer T (NKT) lymphocyte reaction that triggers anti-tumor activity, but this response is short lived and non-specific. In August 5 Nature Immunology, Shin-ichiro Fujii and colleagues at the Rockefeller University, New York, show that administration of α-galactosylceramide–loaded dendritic cells (DCs) can induce a prolonged IFN-γ–producing NKT response that may allow for improved manipulation of NKT cells in disease settings (DOI:10.1038/ni827).

Fujii et al. compared the ability of αGalCer-charged DCs and the free drug to manipulate NKT numbers and function in mice. They observed that DCs elicited NKT responses distinct from those seen with the drug alone. The responses to DC-αGalCer — as assessed by the number of IFN-γ–secreting NKT cells— were stronger and more prolonged. In addition, DC-αGalCer was also associated with increased protection against the...

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