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J Immunol. 2008 Mar 1;180(5):2922-32.

KIR2DL4 differentially signals downstream functions in human NK cells through distinct structural modules.

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  • 1Fox Chase Cancer Center, Division of Basic Science, Institute for Cancer Research, Philadelphia, PA 19111, USA.


KIR2DL4 (2DL4) is a member of the killer cell Ig-like receptor (KIR) family in human NK cells. It can stimulate potent cytokine production and weak cytolytic activity in resting NK cells, but the mechanism for 2DL4-mediated signaling remains unclear. In this study we characterized the signaling pathways stimulated by 2DL4 engagement. In a human NK-like cell line, KHYG-1, cross-linking of 2DL4 activated MAPKs including JNK, ERK, and p38. Furthermore, 2DL4 cross-linking resulted in phosphorylation of IkappaB kinase beta (IKKbeta) and the phosphorylation and degradation of IkappaBalpha, which indicate activation of the classical NF-kappaB pathway. Engagement of 2DL4 was also shown to activate the transcription and translation of a variety of cytokine genes, including TNF-alpha, IFN-gamma, MIP1alpha, MIP1beta, and IL-8. Pharmacological inhibitors of JNK, MEK1/2 and p38, blocked IFN-gamma, IL-8, and MIP1alpha production, suggesting that MAPKs are regulating 2DL4-mediated cytokine production in a nonredundant manner. Activation of both p38 and ERK appear to be upstream of the stimulation of NF-kappaB. Mutation of a transmembrane arginine in 2DL4 to glycine (R/G mutant) abrogated FcepsilonRI-gamma association, as well as receptor-mediated cytolytic activity and calcium responses. Surprisingly, the R/G mutant still activated MAPKs and the NF-kappaB pathway and selectively stimulated the production of MIP1alpha, but not that of IFN-gamma or IL-8. In conclusion, we provide evidence that the activating functions of 2DL4 can be compartmentalized into two distinct structural modules: 1) through transmembrane association with FcepsilonRI-gamma; and 2) through another receptor domain independent of the transmembrane arginine.

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