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Eur J Immunol. 2013 Dec;43(12):3268-78. doi: 10.1002/eji.201343773. Epub 2013 Oct 9.

NKG2C zygosity influences CD94/NKG2C receptor function and the NK-cell compartment redistribution in response to human cytomegalovirus.

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IMIM (Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute), Barcelona, Spain.


Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection promotes a persistent expansion of a functionally competent NK-cell subset expressing the activating CD94/NKG2C receptor. Factors underlying the wide variability of this effect observed in HCMV-seropositive healthy individuals and exacerbated in immunocompromized patients are uncertain. A deletion of the NKG2C gene has been reported, and an apparent relation of NKG2C genotype with circulating NKG2C(+) NK-cell numbers was observed in HCMV(+) children. We have assessed the influence of NKG2C gene dose on the NK-cell repertoire in a cohort of young healthy adults (N = 130, median age 19 years). Our results revealed a relation of NKG2C copy number with surface receptor levels and with NKG2C(+) NK-cell numbers in HCMV(+) subjects, independently of HLA-E dimorphism. Functional studies showed quantitative differences in signaling (i.e. iCa(2+) influx), degranulation, and IL-15-dependent proliferation, in response to NKG2C engagement, between NK cells from NKG2C(+/+) and hemizygous subjects. These observations provide a mechanistic interpretation on the way the NKG2C genotype influences steady-state NKG2C(+) NK-cell numbers, further supporting an active involvement of the receptor in the HCMV-induced reconfiguration of the NK-cell compartment. The putative implications of NKG2C zygosity over viral control and other clinical variables deserve attention.


CD94/NKG2C; Cytomegalovirus; Human; NK cells; NKG2C genotype

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