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Immunity. 1997 Mar;6(3):341-50.

The binding site of NK receptors on HLA-C molecules.

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  • 1Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 01238, USA.


The protection of cells expressing class I HLA molecules from NK lysis is mediated by natural killer cell inhibitory receptors (NKIR). Using site-directed mutagenesis, residues on HLA-C that determine the locus specificity (alphaVal-76), allotype group specificity (a dimorphism alphaAsn-80/Lys-80), and affinity of NKIR binding (a second pair of dimorphisms, alphaAla-73, Asp-90 or alphaThr-73, Ala-90) have been identified. Thus the "footprint" of the NKIR on the alpha1 helix of the class I MHC molecule HLA-C and its associated beta strands are similar in position to the site occupied by superantigens on and behind the alpha1 helix of the class II MHC molecule HLA-DR1, but further toward its C-terminus. The intermediate affinity binding of NKIR to HLA-C, determined by alpha73 and alpha90, has an essential role in preventing cross-reactivity and ensuring the availability of NK cells for immunosurveillance; low affinity and high affinity mutants are both physiologically impaired.

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