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Transpl Immunol. 2006 Dec;17(1):27-30. Epub 2006 Oct 10.

Do NK-cell receptors and alloreactivity affect solid organ transplantation?

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  • 1Servicio de InmunologĂ­a, Hospital Universitario Puerta de Hierro, San MartĂ­n de Porres 4, 28035 Madrid, Spain.


Although natural killer cells lyse targets without pre-sensitization, and in an MHC-unrestricted manner, they can also respond to healthy allogeneic cells of different MHC type. Such alloreactivity is a consequence of NK cells using clonally distributed, inhibitory MHC class I receptors to achieve tolerance to healthy autologous cells. Absence of an appropriate MHC class I ligand on an allogeneic cell erroneously informs the NK cell that the allogeneic cell has lost MHC class I expression and should be killed. Potential NK-cell allo-reactivities are common in non-HLA-identical hematopoietic cell transplants and can have both beneficial and detrimental effects. Less is known of NK-cell allo-reactivities in solid organ transplantation. In animal models NK cells are neither necessary nor sufficient for acute transplant rejection, but they can make a contribution by helping activate T cells. Genes encoding NK-cell receptors for polymorphic MHC class I molecules are also highly polymorphic, contributing to variability of the NK-cell repertoire and response in the human population. These receptors could represent intrinsic patient factors that influence the success of their transplanted solid organs.

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