Retroviral gene transfer into primary human NK cells activated by IL-2 and K562 feeder cells expressing membrane-bound IL-21
V. Natural killer (NK) cells are capable of rapidly recognizing and efficiently killing tumor cells. This makes them a potentially promising agent for cancer immunotherapy. Additional genetic modifications of NK cells may further improve their anti-tumor efficacy. Numerous technical challenges associated with gene delivery into NK cells have significantly tempered this approach. We achieved efficient retroviral vector transduction of primary human NK cells that were stimulated by a combination of IL-2 and engineered K562 cells expressing membrane-bound IL-21. The activated NK cells were in less differentiated state and expressed NK cell activation receptors NKG2D, NKp30, CD16, and were highly HLA-DR-positive. This NK cell population was highly susceptible to the transduction by both GFP- and NGFR-expressing retroviral vectors, with transduction efficiency exceeding 50%. More mature CD57+NK cell population was generally resistant to retroviral vector transduction because of poor response to the stimulation. Our findings may facilitate retroviral vector-mediated genetic engineering of human primary NK cells for future immunotherapies.