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Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 986491, 8 pages
Review Article

The Role of Natural Killer Cells in Sepsis

1Centre d'Immunologie de Marseille-Luminy (CIML), Université de la Méditerranée UM 631, Campus de Luminy, 13288 Marseille, France
2INSERM UMR-S 631, Marseille, France
3CNRS, UMR 6102, Marseille, France
4Laboratoire d'Immunologie, Hôpital de la Conception, Assistance Publique Hôpitaux de Marseille, 13385 Marseille Cedex 5, France
5Réanimation Médicale, Hôpital Nord, Assistance Publique Hôpitaux de Marseille, 13915 Marseille Cedex 20, France
6Unité de Recherche sur les Maladies Infectieuses et Tropicales (URMITE), CNRS, UMR 6236, Université Aix-Marseille II, 13284 Marseille Cedex 07, France
7Innate Pharma, 117 avenue de Luminy, BP 30191, 13276 Marseille Cedex 09, France

Received 15 January 2011; Accepted 16 March 2011

Academic Editor: Lorenzo Moretta

Copyright © 2011 Laurent Chiche et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Severe sepsis and septic shock are still deadly conditions urging to develop novel therapies. A better understanding of the complex modifications of the immune system of septic patients is needed for the development of innovative immunointerventions. Natural killer (NK) cells are characterized as CD3NKp46+CD56+ cells that can be cytotoxic and/or produce high amounts of cytokines such as IFN-γ. NK cells are also engaged in crosstalks with other immune cells, such as dendritic cells, macrophages, and neutrophils. During the early stage of septic shock, NK cells may play a key role in the promotion of the systemic inflammation, as suggested in mice models. Alternatively, at a later stage, NK cells-acquired dysfunction could favor nosocomial infections and mortality. Standardized biological tools defining patients' NK cell status during the different stages of sepsis are mandatory to guide potential immuno-interventions. Herein, we review the potential role of NK cells during severe sepsis and septic shock.