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J Exp Med. 1998 Sep 7;188(5):953-60.

Molecular cloning of NKp46: a novel member of the immunoglobulin superfamily involved in triggering of natural cytotoxicity.

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Dipartimento di Medicina Sperimentale, Università degli Studi di Genova, Italy.


NKp46 has been shown to represent a novel, natural killer (NK) cell-specific surface molecule, involved in human NK cell activation. In this study, we further analyzed the role of NKp46 in natural cytotoxicity against different tumor target cells. We provide direct evidence that NKp46 represents a major activating receptor involved in the recognition and lysis of both human and murine tumor cells. Although NKp46 may cooperate with other activating receptors (including the recently identified NKp44 molecule) in the induction of NK-mediated lysis of human tumor cells, it may represent the only human NK receptor involved in recognition of murine target cells. Molecular cloning of the cDNA encoding the NKp46 molecule revealed a novel member of the immunoglobulin (Ig) superfamily, characterized by two C2-type Ig-like domains in the extracellular portion. The transmembrane region contains the positively charged amino acid Arg, which is possibly involved in stabilizing the association with CD3zeta chain. The cytoplasmic portion, spanning 30 amino acids, does not contain immunoreceptor tyrosine-based activating motifs. Analysis of a panel of human/hamster somatic cell hybrids revealed segregation of the NKp46 gene on human chromosome 19. Assessment of the NKp46 mRNA expression in different tissues and cell types unambiguously confirmed the strict NK cell specificity of the NKp46 molecule. Remarkably, in line with the ability of NKp46 to recognize ligand(s) on murine target cells, the cDNA encoding NKp46 was found to be homologous to a cDNA expressed in murine spleen. In conclusion, this study reports the first characterization of the molecular structure of a NK-specific receptor involved in the mechanism of NK cell activation during natural cytotoxicity.

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