Natural killer cells, viruses and cancer

Nat Rev Immunol. 2001 Oct;1(1):41-9. doi: 10.1038/35095564.


Natural killer cells are innate immune cells that control certain microbial infections and tumours. The function of natural killer cells is regulated by a balance between signals transmitted by activating receptors, which recognize ligands on tumours and virus-infected cells, and inhibitory receptors specific for major histocompatibility complex class I molecules. Here, we review the emerging evidence that natural killer cells have an important role in vivo in immune defence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytomegalovirus / immunology
  • Herpesviridae / immunology
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Models, Immunological
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Receptors, Immunologic / metabolism
  • Receptors, Natural Killer Cell
  • Virus Diseases / immunology
  • Viruses / immunology*


  • Receptors, Immunologic
  • Receptors, Natural Killer Cell