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4-1BB is expressed on invariant (i)NKT cells, but its role is unclear. We showed previously that iNKT cells are involved in control of monocyte numbers during influenza A virus (IAV) infection and now question the role of the 4-1BB costimulatory pathway in the cross-talk between these cells. We found that iNKT cells and monocytes interact to promote expression of 4-1BB and 4-1BBL, respectively. Blockade of 4-1BB/L pathway under resting coculture conditions increased apoptosis of iNKT cells and monocytes. However, activation of iNKT cells overrides this survival signal, causing marked apoptosis of monocytes independent of 4-1BB/L. Blocking 4-1BBL in alpha-galactosylceramide-activated iNKT-monocyte cocultures reduced iNKT proliferation and abrogated monocytic IL-12 production. In vivo, expression of 4-1BB and 4-1BBL is increased on iNKT cells and Ly6C(hi) monocytes, respectively, during IAV infection, and there were lower frequencies of apoptosing Ly6C(hi) monocytes in the blood of iNKT knockout mice and higher numbers of monocytes in lungs compared with infected wild-type mice. Adoptive transfer of iNKT cells into the lungs of these mice reduced lung Ly6C(hi) monocytes levels, even when iNKT cells were preincubated with 4-1BB blocking Abs. These findings suggest that under resting conditions, 4-1BB/L engagement during iNKT-monocyte interaction promotes survival of these cells. When iNKT cells are activated, whether by alpha-galactosylceramide or during IAV infection, iNKT cells induced apoptosis of monocytes via a 4-1BB/L-independent mechanism, reducing monocyte numbers. 4-1BB/L costimulation amplified monocyte-mediated proliferation of iNKT cells, indirectly providing a method for monocytes to control their own numbers during infection.

Original publication




Journal article


J Immunol

Publication Date





3898 - 3907


4-1BB Ligand, Animals, Apoptosis, Cell Communication, Cell Proliferation, Cell Survival, Coculture Techniques, Cytokines, Humans, Influenza A virus, Lymphocyte Activation, Mice, Monocytes, Natural Killer T-Cells, Signal Transduction, Tumor Necrosis Factor Receptor Superfamily, Member 9