NK cell maturation and cytotoxicity are controlled by the intramembrane aspartyl protease SPPL3

Corinne E. Hamblet, Stefanie L. Makowski, Julia M. Tritapoe, Joel L. Pomerantz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


NK cell maturation is critical for normal effector function and the innate immune response to tumors and pathogens. However, the molecular pathways that control NK cell maturation remain largely undefined. In this article, we investigate the role of SPPL3, an intramembrane aspartyl protease, in murine NK cell biology. We find that deletion of SPPL3 in the hematopoietic system reduces numbers of peripheral NK cells, clearance of MHC class I-deficient tumors in vivo, and cytotoxicity against tumor cells in vitro. This phenotype is concomitant with reduced numbers of CD27+CD11b+ and CD27-CD11b+ NK cells, indicating a requirement for SPPL3 in efficient NK cell maturation. NK cell-specific deletion of SPPL3 results in the same deficiencies, revealing a cellautonomous role for SPPL3 in these processes. CRISPR/Cas9 genomic editing in murine zygotes was used to generate knockin mice with a catalytically compromised SPPL3 D271A allele. Mice engineered to express only SPPL3 D271A in NK cells phenocopy mice deleted for SPPL3, indicating a requirement for SPPL3 protease activity in NK cell biology. Our results identify SPPL3 as a cell-autonomous molecular determinant of NK cell maturation and expand the role of intramembrane aspartyl proteases in innate immunity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2614-2626
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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