Natural Partners

Science's STKE  10 Aug 2004:
Vol. 2004, Issue 245, pp. tw288
DOI: 10.1126/stke.2452004tw288

Natural killer (NK) cells play an important role in clearing virally infected cells, an activity that is tightly regulated through a balance of signals transmitted by activation and inhibitory receptors on the NK cell surface. There are haplotypes containing different combinations of NK receptor genes, and considerable variation exists between individuals carrying appropriate ligands for a given NK receptor. Thus, NK-dependent immunity may vary considerably within a population. Khakoo et al. (see the Perspective by Parham) observe that a specific combination of killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs) and major histocompatibility complex (MHC) ligands associated strongly with the ability to resolve infection with hepatitis C virus spontaneously. The effect was probably the result of inefficient NK inhibition by this receptor-ligand combination, which promoted NK activation.

S. I. Khakoo, C. L. Thio, M. P. Martin, C. R. Brooks, X. Gao, J. Astemborski, J. Cheng, J. J. Goedert, D. Vlahov, M. Hilgartner, S. Cox, A.-M. Little, G. J. Alexander, M. E. Cramp, S. J. O'Brien, W. M. C. Rosenberg, D. L. Thomas, M. Carrington, HLA and NK cell inhibitory receptor genes in resolving hepatitis C virus infection. Science 305, 872-874 (2004). [Abstract] [Full Text]

P. Parham, NK cells lose their inhibition. Science 305, 786-787 (2004). [Summary] [Full Text]