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Nat Immunol. 2006 Jul;7(7):747-54. Epub 2006 Jun 4.

Natural killer cell differentiation driven by Tyro3 receptor tyrosine kinases.

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Laboratoire Cytokines et Développement Lymphoïde, Département d'Immunologie, Institut Pasteur, 75724 Paris Cedex 15, France.


Although understanding of the function and specificity of many natural killer (NK) cell receptors is increasing, the molecular mechanisms regulating their expression during late development of NK cells remain unclear. Here we use representational difference analysis to identify molecules required for late NK cell differentiation. Axl protein tyrosine kinase, together with the structurally related receptors Tyro3 and Mer, were essential for NK cell functional maturation and normal expression of inhibitory and activating NK cell receptors. Also, all three receptors were expressed in maturing NK cells, the ligands of these receptors were produced by bone marrow stromal cells, and recombinant versions of these ligands drove NK cell differentiation in vitro. These results collectively suggest that Axl, Tyro3 and Mer transmit signals that are essential for the generation of a functional NK cell repertoire.

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