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Immunity. 2000 Jun;12(6):687-98.

Rapid evolution of NK cell receptor systems demonstrated by comparison of chimpanzees and humans.

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Department of Structural Biology, Stanford University, California 94305, USA.


That NK cell receptors engage fast-evolving MHC class I ligands suggests that they, too, evolve rapidly. To test this hypothesis, the structure and class I specificity of chimpanzee KIR and CD94:NKG2 receptors were determined and compared to their human counterparts. The KIR families are divergent, with only three KIR conserved between chimpanzees and humans. By contrast, CD94:NKG2 receptors are conserved. Whereas receptors for polymorphic class I are divergent, those for nonpolymorphic class I are conserved. Although chimpanzee and human NK cells exhibit identical receptor specificities for MHC-C, they are mediated by nonorthologous KIR. These results demonstrate the rapid evolution of NK cell receptor systems and imply that "catching up" with class I is not the only force driving this evolution.

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