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Eur J Immunol. 1998 Jan;28(1):47-56.

MHC class I expression protects target cells from lysis by Ly49-deficient fetal NK cells.

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Department of Immunology, The Medical School, Newcastle, GB.


Using appropriate conditions natural killer (NK) cells can be cultured from the liver and thymus of day 14 fetal mice. These fetal NK cells are phenotypically and functionally indistinguishable from adult NK cells with the exception that they lack measurable expression of all of the Ly49 molecules that can currently be detected with antibodies. Despite this, they preferentially kill tumor cells and blast cells deficient in the expression of major histocompatibility complex class I molecules, although the degree of discrimination is usually weaker than that shown by adult NK cells and varies depending on the particular combination of effector and target cells used. Polymerase chain reaction analysis revealed that although fetal NK cells are severely deficient in the expression of mRNA for Ly49A, B, C, D, G, H, and I they express high levels of Ly49E mRNA, raising the possibility that Ly49E may have an important and special function in the early development of the NK lineage.

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