Neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD), myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein Ab disease, and autoimmune myasthenia gravis (MG) are autoantibody-mediated neurologic conditions where autoantibodies can induce Ab-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC), a NK cell–mediated effector function. However, whether ADCC is a pathogenic mechanism in patients with these conditions has not been confirmed. We sought to characterize circulatory NK cells using functional assays, phenotyping, and transcriptomics to elucidate their role in pathology. NK cells from NMOSD patients and MG patients with elevated disease burden exhibited reduced ADCC and CD56dimCD16hi NK cells, along with an elevated frequency of CD56dimCD16dim/− NK cells. We determined that ADCC induces a similar phenotypic shift in vitro. Bulk RNA sequencing distinguished the CD56dimCD16dim/− population from the canonical CD56dimCD16hi cytotoxic and CD56hiCD16 immunomodulatory subsets, as well as CD56hiCD16+ NK cells. Multiparameter immunophenotyping of NK cell markers, functional proteins, and receptors similarly showed that the CD56dimCD16dim/− subset exhibits a unique profile while still maintaining expression of characteristic NK markers CD56, CD94, and NKp44. Notably, expression of perforin and granzyme is reduced in comparison with CD56dimCD16hi NK cells. Moreover, they exhibit elevated trogocytosis capability, HLA-DR expression, and many chemokine receptors, including CCR7. In contrast with NMOSD and MG, myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein Ab disease NK cells did not exhibit functional, phenotypic, or transcriptomic perturbations. In summary, CD56dimCD16dim/− NK cells are a distinct peripheral blood immune cell population in humans elevated upon prior cytotoxic activity by the CD56dimCD16hi NK cell subset. The elevation of this subset in NMOSD and MG patients suggests prior ADCC activity.

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