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Cancer Biol Ther. 2003 Jul-Aug;2(4):446-51.

Letal, A tumor-associated NKG2D immunoreceptor ligand, induces activation and expansion of effector immune cells.

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  • 1Center for Research in Reproduction and Women's Health, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology; University of Pennsylvania Medical Center; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA.


NKG2D serves as one of the most potent activating receptors for effector lymphocytes. in peripheral tissues. Here we report the characterization of Letal, the first human trans-membrane NKG2D ligand lacking an immunoglobulin-like alpha-3 ectodomain. Letal is constitutively expressed by a variety of normal tissues, and is upregulated in tumor cells of different origins. Unlike other NKG2D ligands, Letal mRNA expression progressively decreased after treatment of tumor cells with retinoic acid. Simultaneous T-cell receptor activation and engagement of Letal stimulated proliferation of CD8(+) cells and dramatically increased IL-2 and IFNgamma secretion. In addition, Letal induced the killing of cancer cells by CD8(+) and NK cells. These results suggest that Letal delivers activating signals to NK cells and promotes tumor immune surveillance by inducing the expansion of anti-tumor cytotoxic lymphocytes.

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