Author ORCID Identifier


Month/Year of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science in Molecular and Biomedical Biology (BTCHBS)



First Advisor

Dr. Paul W Denton


Natural killer (NK) cells have a distinct role in the human immune system: to kill infected or cancerous cells. Two methods of killing are utilized to achieve this. The first, direct killing, occurs between an NK cell and its target cell via direct methods, where no antibody is needed for target cell recognition. The second, antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC), is facilitated by the presence of an antibody specific to the target cell. To assess the killing capacities of human NK cells, we used an immunotherapy treatment, a toll-like receptor 9 agonist, to initiate an immune response. We then observed NK cell-mediated killing of our target cancer cell lines, K562 (direct) and Daudi (ADCC). Our experimental approach is a novel assay where we assess both methods of NK cell killing. Our data show that, with stimulation, direct killing increased while ADCC did not. The objective of the current experiment is to analyze the killing functions of natural killer cells through a transcriptional lens via single-cell RNA sequencing. The expression of important markers, such as CD69, a marker for NK cell activation, and other markers for cytotoxic potential, were analyzed in one representative donor sample. Our results follow changes in transcriptional levels within NK cells over four time points (0 to 60 hours) and may open doors into other facets of NK cell killing, both ADCC and direct, and how they correlate to recent findings. This preliminary data may also contribute to clinical trials utilizing immunotherapy treatments involving NK cell-killing abilities.

Available for download on Thursday, May 13, 2027