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J Immunol. 1999 Jul 1;163(1):212-6.

Diversity of NK cell receptor repertoire in adult and neonatal mice.

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  • 1Terry Fox Laboratory, British Columbia Cancer Agency, Vancouver, Canada.


Murine NK cytotoxicity is regulated by two families of MHC class I-specific receptors, namely Ly49 and CD94/NKG2. We developed a single-cell RT-PCR method to analyze expression of all known Ly49 and NKG2A genes in individual NK cells and determined the receptor repertoires of NK cells from adult and neonatal (1-wk-old) C57BL/6 mice. In adult mouse NK cells, up to six different receptors were coexpressed in random combinations. Of 62 NK cells examined, 42 different patterns of receptor expression were observed. Most of them expressed at least one Ly49, whereas NKG2A was detected in 32% of the cells. Over 75% of them expressed Ly49C, I, or NKG2A, which are thought to recognize self-class I MHC (H-2b). Coexpression of multiple Ly49 receptors and NKG2A was stochastic. In contrast, very few neonatal NK cells expressed any Ly49, but almost 60% of them expressed NKG2A. These results demonstrate that adult NK cells are quite heterogeneous and have diverse receptor repertoires. They also suggest that the expression of NKG2A precedes Ly49 expression in NK cell ontogeny, and NKG2A is a major inhibitory receptor in neonatal NK cells.

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