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J Immunol. 2006 Sep 1;177(5):3170-7.

Molecular analysis of NTB-A signaling: a role for EAT-2 in NTB-A-mediated activation of human NK cells.

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Institute for Immunology, University Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.


Engagement of NTB-A on human NK cells by homophilic interaction with NTB-A-expressing target cells can trigger NK cell cytotoxicity, cytokine production, and proliferation. To better understand how NTB-A can activate NK cells, we analyzed the molecular mechanisms of NTB-A signaling. We show that NTB-A is tyrosine phosphorylated in unstimulated human NK cells and associates with SLAM-associated protein (SAP) and EAT-2. This phosphorylation of NTB-A is mediated by Src family kinases and is most likely a result of the homophilic interaction of NTB-A among neighboring NK cells. Stimulation of NK cells by NTB-A-positive targets results in increased NTB-A phosphorylation. The cytoplasmic tail of NTB-A contains three tyrosines, two of which are embedded within an immunoreceptor tyrosine-based switch motif. We generated a NTB-A-negative NK cell line, in which we expressed different mutants of NTB-A. Functional studies showed that the second tyrosine is sufficient and essential for NTB-A-mediated cytotoxicity. EAT-2, but not SAP, is recruited to this second tyrosine, indicating that SAP may be dispensable for this NTB-A function. To further investigate this, we silenced SAP expression in NK cell lines. Functional analysis of these cells showed that NTB-A can mediate NK cell cytotoxicity in the absence of SAP, probably via EAT-2. In contrast, NTB-A-mediated IFN-gamma production was greatly reduced in the absence of SAP, demonstrating that cytokine production and cytotoxicity are differentially dependent on SAP and possibly EAT-2.

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