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BioMed Research International
Volume 2015, Article ID 238431, 9 pages
Review Article

Functional Alteration of Natural Killer Cells and Cytotoxic T Lymphocytes upon Asbestos Exposure and in Malignant Mesothelioma Patients

1Department of Hygiene, Kawasaki Medical School, 577 Matsushima, Kurashiki 701-0192, Japan
2Laboratory of Functional Glycobiochemistry, Department of Biofunctional Chemistry, Division of Agricultural and Life Science, Graduate School of Environmental and Life Science, Okayama University, Okayama 700-8530, Japan
3Okayama Rosai Hospital, Okayama 702-8055, Japan
4Department of Respiratory Medicine, Hyogo College of Medicine, Nishimomiya 663-8501, Japan
5Department of Medical Oncology, Faculty of Medicine, Kinki University, Sayama 589-8511, Japan

Received 30 June 2014; Accepted 29 September 2014

Academic Editor: Mohammad Owais

Copyright © 2015 Yasumitsu Nishimura 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.


Malignant mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, which is known to have carcinogenic effects. However, the development of mesothelioma takes a long period and results from a low or intermediate dose of exposure. These findings have motivated us to investigate the immunological effects of asbestos exposure and analyze immune functions of patients with mesothelioma and pleural plaque, a sign of exposure to asbestos. Here, we review our knowledge concerning natural killer (NK) cells and cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL). NK cells showed impaired cytotoxicity with altered expression of activating receptors upon exposure to asbestos, while induction of granzyme+ cells in CD8+ lymphocytes was suppressed by asbestos exposure. It is interesting that a decrease in NKp46, a representative activating receptor, is common between NK cells in PBMC culture with asbestos and those of mesothelioma patients. Moreover, it was observed that CD8+ lymphocytes may be stimulated by some kind of “nonself” cells in plaque-positive individuals and in mesothelioma patients, whereas CTL in mesothelioma is impaired by poststimulation maintenance of cytotoxicity. These findings suggest that analysis of immunological parameters might contribute to the evaluation of health conditions of asbestos-exposed individuals and to a greater understanding of the pathology of malignant mesothelioma.