NK lymphocytes recognize abnormal or aberrant cells through multiple receptors that detect normal host molecules, as well as stress-induced or pathogen-expressed motifs (Lanier 2005; Long et al. 2013). Individual NK cells express both activating and inhibitory receptors, which together drive the specificity towards target cells.
The NK cell inhibitory receptors have been classified into three groups, namely, the heterodimeric CD94/NKG2A, the Ig-like transcript (ILT) receptors, and the members of the killer cell Ig-like receptors (KIRs). All of them bind to classical or nonclassical MHC-class I molecules. A common characteristic of the inhibitory receptors is the presence of immunoreceptor tyrosine-based inhibition motif(s) (ITIM) within their intracellular tail. Following engagement by their ligands, the inhibitory receptors become phosphorylated on the tyrosine residue(s) present in the ITIM(s), creating docking sites for the SH2-domains of the...
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