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Immunol Lett. 2003 Aug 5;88(2):89-93.

Cellular and molecular basis of natural killer and natural killer-like activity.

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Dipartimento di Medicina Sperimentale, Università degli Studi di Genova, Via L.B. Alberti no. 2, 16132 Genova, Italy.


The capability of killing various tumors or cells infected by certain viruses is a property shared by natural killer (NK) cells and by a subset of cytolytic T lymphocytes (CTLs) termed NK-CTL. Recent analysis of the molecular basis in these phenomena, however, revealed rather different molecular mechanisms. Thus, while NK cell cytotoxicity is regulated by a complex balance between activating signals (delivered by non HLA-class I-specific triggering receptors) and inhibitory signals (delivered by HLA-class I-specific receptors) the effector function of NK-CTL reflects the TCR-mediated recognition of the poorly polymorphic HLA-E.

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