Natural killer (NK) cells eliminate virus-infected cells and tumor cells through direct cytolysis they also influence the immune response through the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. NK cells recognize their target cells via activating and inhibitor receptors that sense the presence of stress- or virus-induced ligands or the presence of self-MHC Class I, respectively. It is not known what regulates the expression and function of these receptors on NK cells. The transcription factor Ets1 is a known oncogene but is also required for proper NK development and function. Mice deficient in Ets1 have reduced numbers of NK cells with altered expression of NK receptors. The few mature NK cells that are present in Ets1-/- mice are in a state of chronic activation, indicating that Ets1 regulates genes important i these processes. Our long-term plan is to determine what genes Ets1 regulates during NK cell development and activation. Chromatin immuno-preciptitaion with high throughput DNA sequencing will be used to identify unique Ets1 targets in mature NK cells. We will determine whether activating receptors are direct targets of Ets1 and whether Ets1 cooperates with other NK cell-associated factors to regulate gene expression. NK cells that do not express Ets1 have a lower expression of activating receptors and high expression of transcription factors correlated with chronic activation. We plan to use retroviral transduction to manipulate the expression of these molecules in Ets1 deficient NK cells to determine if these molecules are responsible for the chronic activation state. We will also determine if the reduced number of NK cells in Ets1-deficient mice is the result of """"""""leaky"""""""" granzyme molecules made by the NK cells. Ultimately, we hope that this knowledge can be used to manipulate NK cell development and function to promote the removal of cancerous cells.

Public Health Relevance

Natural killer (NK) cells function in the body to eliminate virus-infected and cancer cells. Thus NK cells harness great potential to eliminate tumors;however, they themselves can also become malignant through chronic stimulation. Our goal is to understand the molecular mechanisms controlling development and activation of these cells that can ultimately be used to enhance their ability to remove tumors.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Postdoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F32)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
Program Officer
Jakowlew, Sonia B
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Chicago
Schools of Medicine
United States
Zip Code
Zook, Erin C; Ramirez, Kevin; Guo, Xiaohuan et al. (2016) The ETS1 transcription factor is required for the development and cytokine-induced expansion of ILC2. J Exp Med 213:687-96
Verykokakis, Mihalis; Zook, Erin C; Kee, Barbara L (2014) ID'ing innate and innate-like lymphoid cells. Immunol Rev 261:177-97