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Immunol Rev. 2001 Jun;181:52-65.

Structural basis of MHC class I recognition by natural killer cell receptors.

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Center for Advanced Research in Biotechnology, University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute, Rockville 20850, USA.


Natural killer (NK)-cell function is regulated by NK receptors that recognize MHC class I (MHC-I) molecules on target cells. Two structurally distinct families of NK receptors have been identified, the immunoglobulin-like family (killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs), leukocyte immunoglobulin-like receptors (LIRs)) and the C-type lectin-like family (Ly49, CD94/NKG2A, NKG2D, CD69). Recently, the three-dimensional structures of several NK receptors were determined, in free form or bound to MHC-I. These include those of unbound KIRs, NKG2D, CD69, LIR-1 and the CD94 subunit of the CD94/NKG2A heterodimer. Together, these structures define the basic molecular architecture of both the immunoglobulin-like and C-type lectin-like families of NK receptors. In addition, crystal structures have been reported for the complex between Ly49A and H-2Dd, and for KIR2DL2 bound to HLA-Cw3. The complex structures provide a framework for understanding MHC-I recognition by NK receptors from both families and reveal striking differences in the nature of this recognition, despite the receptors' functional similarity.

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