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Front Immunol. 2014 Apr 2;5:145. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2014.00145. eCollection 2014.

Ly49 receptors: innate and adaptive immune paradigms.

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Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology, University of Ottawa , Ottawa, ON , Canada.
Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology, University of Ottawa , Ottawa, ON , Canada ; College of Applied Medical Sciences, Taibah University , Madinah Munawwarah , Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, Queen's University , Kingston, ON , Canada.


The Ly49 receptors are type II C-type lectin-like membrane glycoproteins encoded by a family of highly polymorphic and polygenic genes within the mouse natural killer (NK) gene complex. This gene family is designated Klra, and includes genes that encode both inhibitory and activating Ly49 receptors in mice. Ly49 receptors recognize class I major histocompatibility complex-I (MHC-I) and MHC-I-like proteins on normal as well as altered cells. Their functional homologs in humans are the killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors, which recognize HLA class I molecules as ligands. Classically, Ly49 receptors are described as being expressed on both the developing and mature NK cells. The inhibitory Ly49 receptors are involved in NK cell education, a process in which NK cells acquire function and tolerance toward cells that express "self-MHC-I." On the other hand, the activating Ly49 receptors recognize altered cells expressing activating ligands. New evidence shows a broader Ly49 expression pattern on both innate and adaptive immune cells. Ly49 receptors have been described on multiple NK cell subsets, such as uterine NK and memory NK cells, as well as NKT cells, dendritic cells, plasmacytoid dendritic cells, macrophages, neutrophils, and cells of the adaptive immune system, such as activated T cells and regulatory CD8(+) T cells. In this review, we discuss the expression pattern and proposed functions of Ly49 receptors on various immune cells and their contribution to immunity.


Ly49; NK cells; innate immune receptors; innate immunity; receptor function

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