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posted on 06.10.2020, 07:46 by Kirstine Nolling Jensen, Sunnefa Yeatman Omarsdottir, Margret Sol Reinhardsdottir, Ingibjorg Hardardottir, Jona Freysdottir

Natural killer (NK) cells and neutrophils engage in crosstalk that is important in inflammation and likely also for resolution of inflammation. NK cells activate neutrophils and induce their infiltration to the inflamed sites but may also influence their apoptosis and their subsequent efferocytosis by macrophages. Several studies indicate that docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can inhibit NK cell cytotoxicity but the effects of DHA on the ability of NK cells to engage in crosstalk with neutrophils and affect their functions have not been described. This study explored the kinetics of the effects of NK cells and NK cells pre-treated with DHA on neutrophil surface molecule expression and apoptosis, as well as the ability of NK cells to affect other neutrophil functions. In addition, the study explored the effects of neutrophils on NK cell phenotype and function. Primary NK cells were pre-incubated with or without DHA, then stimulated and co-cultured with freshly isolated neutrophils. When co-cultured with NK cells, neutrophils had higher expression levels of CD11b and CD47; secreted more IL-8, IL-1ra, and CXCL10; had increased phagocytic ability; and their apoptosis was increased early after initiation of the co-culture while dampened at a later time-point. Pre-incubation of NK cells with DHA attenuated NK cell-induced upregulation of CD11b and CD47 on neutrophils, had minor effects on NK cell induction of cytokine/chemokine secretion or their phagocytic ability. Neutrophils also affected the function of NK cells, lowering the frequency of NKp46+ and CXCR3+ NK cells and increasing the concentrations of IFN-γ, TNF-α, and GM-CSF in the co-cultures. Pre-incubation of NK cells with DHA further decreased the frequency of NKp46+ NK cells in the co-culture with neutrophils and decreased the concentrations of IFN-γ, CCL3 and GM-CSF. These findings indicate that NK cells have mostly pro-inflammatory effects on neutrophils and that DHA can attenuate some of these pro-inflammatory effects. Neutrophils had both anti- and pro-inflammatory effects on NK cells. When NK cells had been pre-treated with DHA, the anti-inflammatory effects were increased and some of the pro-inflammatory effects attenuated. Overall, the results suggest that DHA may lead to a more anti-inflammatory microenvironment for NK cell and neutrophil crosstalk.