Summer Research Description: Natural Killer (NK) cells are an innate lymphocyte population that recognize and eliminate cancerous cells. However, one limitation is effectively directing NK cells to migrate towards solid tumors. We contend that diverting NK cells toward tumors will improve cancer therapy; before this can occur, we must first understand how NK cell migration is regulated.
KLF2, a zinc-finger transcriptional factor, regulates B and T cell migration by controlling gene expression of homing receptors. In these cell populations, KLF2 is necessary to simultaneously promote expression of homeostatic homing receptors while suppressing expression of inflammatory homing receptors. We hypothesize that a similar mechanism is utilized by NK cells. To address this hypothesis, we will look at homing receptor expression on NK cell populations that have or lack KLF2.
Successful completion of these experiments may have identified the first transcription factor to regulate NK cell migration. In turn, this work may provide the foundation for future studies to target NK cell migration as a therapeutic regimen for cancer.