Immunologic Research

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 539–548

Structure and function of natural-killer-cell receptors


DOI: 10.1385/IR:27:2-3:539

Cite this article as:
Sun, P.D. Immunol Res (2003) 27: 539. doi:10.1385/IR:27:2-3:539


The function of natural-killer (NK) cells is modulated by the balance between a number of activating and inhibitory receptors. Killer immunoglobulinlike receptors (KIRs) are mostly inhibitory receptors. They play a critical role in recognizing self-class-I major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules and thus protect healthy host cells from NK-targeted lysis. In contrast, both NKG2D and CD16 are activating NK receptors that trigger the NK-cell lysis of various tumor and virally infected cells through either direct ligand engagement or antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC). Through structural studies of members of these distinct receptor families, in particular, the structure and recognition between KIR2DL2 and HLA-Cw3, that between NKG2D and ULBP3, and that between CD16 and IgG Fc, considerable understandings have been achieved about their function and their ligand recognition.

Key Words

KIRNKG2DFc receptorsCrystal structureImmunoreceptorsNK receptors

Copyright information

© Humana Press Inc. 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Structural Immunology Section Laboratory of Immunogenetics National Institute of Allergy and Infectious DiseasesNational Institutes of HealthRockville