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Natural killer cells express multiple receptors for major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I, including the killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs) and the C-type lectin-like CD94:NKG2 receptors. The KIR locus is extremely polymorphic, paralleling the diversity of its classical MHC class I ligands. Similarly, the conservation of the NKG2 family of receptors parallels the conservation of MHC-E, the ligand for CD94:NKG2A/C/E. Binding of both CD94:NKG2 heterodimers and KIR to their respective MHC class I ligand is peptide dependent, and despite the evolution of these receptors, they have retained the property of peptide selectivity. Such peptide selectivity affects these two systems in different ways. HLA-E binding non-inhibitory peptides augment inhibition at CD94:NKG2A, while HLA-C binding non-inhibitory peptides antagonize inhibition at KIR2DL2/3, implying that KIRs are specialized to respond positively to changes in peptide repertoire. Thus, while specific KIRs, such as KIR2DL3, are associated with beneficial outcomes from viral infections, viral peptides augment inhibition at CD94:NKGA. Conversely, NKG2A-positive NK cells sense MHC class I downregulation more efficiently than KIRs. Thus, these two receptor:ligand systems appear to have complementary functions in recognizing changes in MHC class I. © 2015 John Wiley & Sons A/S. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


Jayajit Das, Salim I Khakoo. NK cells: tuned by peptide? Immunological reviews. 2015 Sep;267(1):214-27

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PMID: 26284480

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