Natural killer cells, killer immunoglobulin-like receptors and human leucocyte antigen class I in disease

Authors

  • R. J. Boyton,

    Corresponding author
    1. Lung Immunology Group, National Heart & Lung Institute, Sir Alexander Fleming Building, South Kensington Campus, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College, London, UK, and
    2. Department of Respiratory Medicine, Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust, London, UK, and
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  • D. M. Altmann

    1. Department of Infectious Diseases and Immunity, Imperial College, Hammersmith Hospital, Du Cane Road, London, UK
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Dr Rosemary Boyton, MRC Clinician Scientist, Lung Immunology Group, National Heart and Lung Institute, Sir Alexander Fleming Building, South Kensington Campus, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College, London SW7 2AZ, UK.
E-mail: r.boyton@imperial.ac.uk

Summary

Natural killer cells constitute a potent, rapid part of the innate immune response to infection or transformation, and also generate a link to priming of adaptive immunity. Their function can encompass direct cytotoxicity as well as the release of cytokines and chemokines. In humans, a major component of natural killer (NK) cell target recognition depends mainly on the surveillance of human leucocyte antigen (HLA) class I molecules by killer immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIR). Different KIR can transmit inhibitory or activatory signals to the cell, and effector function is considered to result from the balance of these contributing signals. The regulation of NK cell responses depends on a number of variables: KIR genotype, HLA genotype, heterozygosity versus homozygosity for these, whether there is cognate recognition between the HLA and KIR products carried by an individual, clonal variation between individual NK cells in KIR expression, and the specific modulation of HLA expression by infection, transformation or peptide binding. Different HLA/KIR genotypes can impart different thresholds of activation to the NK cell repertoire and such genotypic variation has been found to confer altered risk in a number of diseases including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) susceptibility and progression, hepatitis C virus clearance, idiopathic bronchiectasis, autoimmunity and cancer.

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