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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Oct 15;110(42):16981-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1304366110. Epub 2013 Sep 30.

Synergistic inhibition of natural killer cells by the nonsignaling molecule CD94.

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Division of Medicine , Imperial College London, London W2 1PG, United Kingdom.


Peptide selectivity is a feature of inhibitory receptors for MHC class I expressed by natural killer (NK) cells. CD94-NKG2A operates in tandem with the polymorphic killer cell Ig-like receptors (KIR) and Ly49 systems to inhibit NK cells. However, the benefits of having two distinct inhibitory receptor-ligand systems are not clear. We show that noninhibitory peptides presented by HLA-E can augment the inhibition of NKG2A(+) NK cells mediated by MHC class I signal peptides through the engagement of CD94 without a signaling partner. Thus, CD94 is a peptide-selective NK cell receptor, and NK cells can be regulated by nonsignaling interactions. We also show that KIR(+) and NKG2A(+) NK cells respond with differing stoichiometries to MHC class I down-regulation. MHC-I-bound peptide functions as a molecular rheostat controlling NK cell function. Selected peptides which in isolation do not inhibit NK cells can have different effects on KIR and NKG2A receptors. Thus, these two inhibitory systems may complement each other by having distinct responses to bound peptide and surface levels of MHC class I.


MHC-I peptides; innate immunity

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