Background: The NK cell line NK-92 and its genetically modified variants are receiving attention as immunotherapies to treat a range of malignancies. However, since NK-92 cells are themselves tumors, they require irradiation prior to transfer and are potentially susceptible to attack by patients’ immune systems. Here, we investigated NK-92 cell-mediated serial killing for the effects of gamma-irradiation and ligation of the death receptor Fas (CD95), and NK-92 cell susceptibility to attack by activated primary blood NK cells.
Methods: To evaluate serial killing, we used 51 Cr-release assays with low NK-92 effector cell to target Raji, Daudi or K562 tumor cell (E:T) ratios to determine killing frequencies at 2-, 4-, 6-, and 8-hours.
Results: NK-92 cells were able to kill up to 14 Raji cells per NK-92 cell in eight hours. NK-92 cells retained high cytotoxic activity immediately after irradiation with 10 Gy but the cells surviving irradiation lost >50% activity one day after irradiation. Despite high expression of CD95, NK-92 cells maintained their viability following overnight Fas/CD95-ligation but lost some cytotoxic activity. However, one day after irradiation, NK-92 cells were more susceptible to Fas ligation, resulting in decreased cytotoxic activity of the cells surviving irradiation. Irradiated NK-92 cells were also susceptible to killing by both unstimulated and IL-2 activated primary NK cells (LAK). In contrast, non-irradiated NK-92 cells were more resistant to attack by NK and LAK cells.
Conclusions: Irradiation is deleterious to both the survival and cytotoxicity mediated by NK-92 cells and renders the NK-92 cells susceptible to Fas-initiated death and death initiated by primary blood NK cells. Therefore, replacement of irradiation as an antiproliferative pretreatment and genetic deletion of Fas and/or NK activation ligands from adoptively transferred cell lines are indicated as new approaches to increase therapeutic efficacy.