Chronic alcohol consumption decreases NK cells in the spleen (SP) and compromises their release from the bone marrow (BM). NK cells in the lymph nodes (LN) are important to T cell priming and polarization. Little is known as to how alcohol consumption affects NK cells in the LN. To address this issue, female C57BL/6 mice were given 20% (w/v) alcohol in drinking water for 3-6 months. The percentage, number, phenotype and functions of NK cells in the peripheral LN were studied. Alcohol consumption decreased the percentage and numbers of NK cells in the LN without altering the degree of NK cell apoptosis. Ly49H+, Ly49D+ and Ly49G2+ NK cells also decreased in the LN. The decrease in these cell populations was more pronounced in the SP, and there were no changes in the BM. The results from normal SP cell transfer experiments indicated a time-dependent decrease in accumulation of NK cells into the LN of alcohol consuming as compared to water drinking mice. Alcohol consumption increased the percentage of CXCR3+CD3- and decreased CD62L+CD3-NK cells in the SP and BM. The percentage of CXCR3+CD3+ T cells and CD62L+CD3+ T cells did not change. Consistent with the decrease of NK cells in the LN, alcohol consumption enhanced melanoma metastasis in the draining LN. The results indicate that decreased NK cells in the LN are associated with decreased CD62L+ NK cells in the SP and BM, which impairs NK cell migration to the LN.

Supported by R01 AA07293.