, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 1-8
Date: 18 Mar 2009

Natural killer cell receptors and their ligands in liver diseases

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The liver is a distinctive immune organ with predominant innate immunity, being rich in innate immune cells such as natural killer (NK) cells. In humans, NK cells comprise about 30%–50% of intrahepatic lymphocytes, whereas peripheral blood lymphocytes contain about 5%–20% NK cells. Accumulating evidence suggests that NK cells play an important role not only in host defense against invading microorganisms and tumor transformation in the liver but also in liver injury and repair. In recent years, significant progress has been made in terms of understanding how NK cells recognize their target cells and carry out their effector functions. It is now clear that NK cells are strictly regulated by numerous activating and inhibitory NK cell receptors that recognize various classes of cell surface ligands, some of which are expressed by normal healthy cells. Therefore, to further elucidate the involvement of NK cells in the pathogenesis of liver diseases, an understanding of recent advances in NK cell biology is crucial. This review provides an overview of recent advances in our knowledge of human NK cell receptors and their ligands in the context of liver diseases.