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Immunogenetics. 2014 Aug;66(7-8):467-77. doi: 10.1007/s00251-014-0777-2. Epub 2014 May 7.

The activating Ly49W and inhibitory Ly49G NK cell receptors display similar affinities for identical MHC class I ligands.

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  • 1Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2E1, Canada.


The Ly49 receptor family plays an important role in the regulation of murine natural killer (NK) cell effector function. They recognize cell surface-expressed class I MHC (MHC-I) and are functionally equivalent to the killer Ig-related receptors (KIRs) in human NK cells. Ly49s exist in activating and inhibitory forms with highly homologous extracellular domains, displaying greater variability in the stalk regions. Inhibitory Ly49s can recognize self-MHC-I and therefore mediate tolerance to self. The role of activating Ly49 receptors is less clear. Some activating Ly49 receptors have been shown to recognize MHC-I molecules. The binding affinity of activating Ly49 receptors with MHC-I is currently unknown, and we sought to examine the affinities of two highly related receptors, an activating and an inhibitory Ly49 receptor, for their shared MHC-I ligands. The ectodomain of inhibitory Ly49G of the BALB/c mouse strain is highly similar to the Ly49W activating receptor in the nonobese diabetic (NOD) mouse. Recombinant soluble Ly49G and W were expressed, refolded, and analyzed for binding affinity with MHC-I by surface plasmon resonance. We found that Ly49G and Ly49W bound with similar affinity to the same MHC-I molecules. These results are a first determination of an activating Ly49 receptor affinity for MHC-I and show that, unlike prior results obtained with activating and inhibitory KIR receptors, functional homologues to Ly49 receptors, activating and inhibitory Ly49, can recognize common MHC-I ligands, with similar affinities.

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