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Blood. 2008 Sep 15;112(6):2369-80. doi: 10.1182/blood-2008-03-143727. Epub 2008 Jun 26.

MHC class I-specific inhibitory receptors and their ligands structure diverse human NK-cell repertoires toward a balance of missing self-response.

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  • 1Department of Structural Biology, Stanford University School of Medicine, CA 94305-5126, USA. myawata@stanford.edu


Variegated expression of 6 inhibitory HLA class I-specific receptors on primary NK cells was studied using high-dimension flow cytometry in 58 humans to understand the structure and function of NK-cell repertoires. Sixty-four subsets expressing all possible receptor com-binations were present in each repertoire, and the frequency of receptor-null cells varied among the donors. Enhancement in missing-self response between NK subsets varied substantially where subset responses were defined by donor KIR/HLA allotypes, reflecting the differences in interaction between inhibitory receptors and their ligands. This contrasted to the enhancement conferred by NKG2A, which was constant and of intermediate strength. We infer a mechanism that modulates frequencies of the NK subsets displaying diverse levels of missing-self response, a system that reduces the presence of KIR-expressing subsets that display either too strong or too weak a response and effectively replaces them with NKG2A-expressing cells in the repertoire. Through this high-resolution analysis of inhibitory receptor expression, 5 types of NK-cell repertoire were defined by their content of NKG2A(+)/NKG2A(-) cells, frequency of receptor-null cells, and degree of KIR receptor coexpression. The analyses provide new perspective on how personalized human NK-cell repertoires are structured.

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