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Immune function in arctic mammals : Natural killer (NK) cell-like activity in polar bear, muskox and reindeer

New publication by Jean-Pierre Desforges, Lindsay Jasperse, Trine Hammer Jensen, Carsten Grøndahl, Mads F Bertelsen, Sylvain De Guise, Christian Sonne, Rune Dietz, Milton Levin


Natural killer (NK) cells are a vital part of the rapid and non-specific immune defense against invading pathogens and tumor cells. This study evaluated NK cell-like activity by flow cytometry for the first time in three ecologically and culturally important Arctic mammal species: polar bear (Ursus maritimus), muskox (Ovibos moschatus) and reindeer (Rangifer tarandus). NK cell-like activity for all three species was most effective against the mouse lymphoma cell line YAC-1, compared to the human leukemia cell line K562; NK cell response displayed the characteristic increase in cytotoxic activity when the effector:target cell ratio increased. Comparing NK activity between fresh and cryopreserved mouse lymphocytes revealed little to no difference in function, highlighting the applicability of cryopreserving cells in field studies. The evaluation of this important innate immune function in Arctic mammals can contribute to future population health assessments, especially as pollution-induced suppression of immune function may increase infectious disease susceptibility.

DOI; 10.1016/j.vetimm.2017.11.010