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Immunity. 2003 Dec;19(6):803-12.

Thermodynamic analysis of degenerate recognition by the NKG2D immunoreceptor: not induced fit but rigid adaptation.

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The Division of Basic Sciences, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, 1100 Fairview Avenue N, Seattle, WA 98109, USA.


The homodimeric immunoreceptor NKG2D drives the activation of effector cells following engagement of diverse, conditionally expressed MHC class I-like protein ligands. NKG2D recognition is highly degenerate in that a single surface on receptor monomers binds pairs of distinct surfaces on each structurally divergent ligand, simultaneously accommodating multiple nonconservative ligand allelic or isoform substitutions. In contrast to TCR-pMHC and other NK receptor-ligand interactions, thermodynamic and kinetic analyses of four NKG2D-ligand pairs (MIC-A*001, MIC-B*005, ULBP1, and RAE-1beta) reported here show that the relative enthalpic and entropic terms, heat capacity, association rates, and activation energy barriers are comparable to typical, rigid protein-protein interactions. Rather than "induced-fit" binding, NKG2D degeneracy is achieved using distinct interaction mechanisms at each rigid interface.

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