Human natural killer cell function and receptors

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent years have witnessed major progress in our understanding of the molecular mechanisms regulating natural killer cell (NK cell) function. These advances stem primarily from the discovery of a number of receptors specific for major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I and, more recently, of the activating receptors and coreceptors responsible for natural cytotoxicity. Important studies performed over the past year have allowed us to define the evolution of the MHC-specific inhibitory receptors by comparative analysis in different species. The roles of the 'activating natural cytotoxicity receptors', NKG2D and certain coreceptors in the lysis of different tumors have been defined in detail. The mechanism by which the 2B4 coreceptor renders patients with X-linked lymphoproliferative disease unable to control Epstein-Barr virus has been elucidated. Inhibitory receptors identified in NK cells may also be expressed by normal and leukemic myeloid cells, in which they can block cell proliferation and survival. It has also become clear that viruses such as cytomegalovirus have evolved strategies to interfere with NK-cell function to protect themselves from NK-mediated attack.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)387-391
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent Opinion in Pharmacology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2001


  • 2B4
  • Activating receptors
  • CD33
  • Cytolytic activity
  • Immunology
  • Inhibitory receptors
  • Myeloid leukemias
  • Natural cytotoxicity receptors
  • NK cells
  • Pharmacology
  • Viral escape mechanisms
  • X-linked lymphoproliferative disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Pharmacology


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