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NK cells are cytotoxic to virus-infected and tumor cells that have lost surface expression of class I MHC proteins. Target cell expression of class I MHC proteins inhibits NK cytotoxicity through binding to inhibitory NK receptors. In contrast, a similar family of activating NK receptors, characterized by the presence of a charged residue in their transmembrane portion and a truncated cytoplasmic tail, augment lysis by NK cells when ligated by an appropriate class I MHC protein. However, the class I MHC specificity of many of these activating NK receptors is still unknown. Here, we show enhanced lysis of HLA-Cw4 but not HLA-Cw6-expressing cells, by a subset of NK clones. This subset may express killer cell Ig-like receptor two-domain short tail number 4 (KIR2DS4), as suggested by staining with various mAb. It is still possible, however, that these clones may express receptors other than KIR2DS4 that might recognize HLA-Cw4. Binding of KIR2DS4-Ig fusion protein to cells expressing HLA-Cw4 but not to those expressing HLA-Cw6 was also observed. The binding of KIR2DS4-Ig to HLA-Cw4 is weaker than that of killer cell Ig-like receptor two-domain long tail number 1 (KIR2DL1)-Ig fusion protein; however, such weak recognition is capable of inhibiting lysis by an NK transfectant expressing a chimeric molecule of KIR2DS4 fused to the transmembrane and cytoplasmic portion of KIR2DL1. Residue alpha14 is shown to be important in the KIR2DS4 binding to HLA-Cw4. Implications of the role of the activating NK receptors in immunosurveillance are discussed.

Original publication




Journal article


J Immunol

Publication Date





7260 - 7267


Adjuvants, Immunologic, Amino Acid Sequence, Amino Acid Substitution, Cell Line, Clone Cells, Cytotoxicity Tests, Immunologic, Cytotoxicity, Immunologic, HLA-C Antigens, Humans, Killer Cells, Natural, Molecular Sequence Data, Mutagenesis, Site-Directed, Protein Structure, Tertiary, Receptors, Immunologic, Receptors, KIR, Receptors, KIR2DL1, Recombinant Fusion Proteins, Transfection, Tryptophan, Tumor Cells, Cultured