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J Immunol. 2002 Dec 1;169(11):6102-11.

NK cell CD94/NKG2A inhibitory receptors are internalized and recycle independently of inhibitory signaling processes.

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  • 1Receptor Cell Biology Section, Laboratory of Allergic Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Rockville, MD 20852, USA.


Human CD94/NKG2A is an inhibitory receptor that recognizes HLA-E and is expressed by NK cells and a subset of T cells. We have analyzed the cellular trafficking of the CD94/NKG2A receptor using the NKL cell line and peripheral blood NK cells. Flow cytometric, confocal microscopic, and biochemical analyses show that CD94/NKG2A continuously recycles in an active process that requires the cytoskeleton between the cell surface and intracellular compartments that are distinguishable from recycling compartments used by well-characterized receptors, such as transferrin receptor (CD71). CD94/NKG2A, an inhibitory receptor, traffics differently from the closely related CD94/NKG2C molecule, an activating receptor. Using transfection/expression analyses of wild-type and mutant CD94/NKG2A molecules in the HLA-E negative rat basophilic cell line RBL-2H3, we demonstrate that CD94/NKG2A internalization is independent of ligand cross-linking or the presence of functional immunoreceptor tyrosine-based inhibition motifs. Thus, the mechanisms that control cell surface homeostasis of CD94/NKG2A are independent of functional signaling.

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