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Blood. 2013 Apr 18;121(16):3135-46. doi: 10.1182/blood-2012-12-474361. Epub 2013 Feb 13.

Murine natural killer immunoreceptors use distinct proximal signaling complexes to direct cell function.

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Division of Transfusion Medicine and Therapeutic Pathology, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.


Signaling pathways leading to natural killer (NK)-cell effector function are complex and incompletely understood. Here, we investigated the proximal signaling pathways downstream of the immunotyrosine-based activation motif (ITAM) bearing activating receptors. We found that the adaptor molecule SH2 domain-containing leukocyte protein of 76 kD (SLP-76) is recruited to microclusters at the plasma membrane in activated NK cells and that this is required for initiation of downstream signaling and multiple NK-cell effector functions in vitro and in vivo. Surprisingly, we found that 2 types of proximal signaling complexes involving SLP-76 were formed. In addition to the canonical membrane complex formed between SLP-76 and linker for activation of T cells (LAT) family members, a novel LAT family-independent SLP-76-dependent signaling pathway was identified. The LAT family-independent pathway involved the SH2 domain of SLP-76 and adhesion and degranulation-promoting adaptor protein (ADAP). Both the LAT family-dependent and ADAP-dependent pathway contributed to interferon-gamma production and cytotoxicity; however, they were not essential for other SLP-76-dependent events, including phosphorylation of AKT and extracellular signal-related kinase and cellular proliferation. These results demonstrate that NK cells possess an unexpected bifurcation of proximal ITAM-mediated signaling, each involving SLP-76 and contributing to optimal NK-cell function.

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