Immune functions encoded by the natural killer gene complex

Nat Rev Immunol. 2003 Apr;3(4):304-16. doi: 10.1038/nri1055.


There has been marked progress in our understanding of the role of natural killer (NK) cells in immune responses, mainly due to the identification of NK-cell receptors and their ligands. The genes encoding many NK-cell receptors are located in the NK-gene complex (NKC). Here, we review the properties of NKC-encoded receptors, and provide a genomic and conceptual framework for an insight into NK-cell function and biology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Ligands
  • Mice
  • Models, Immunological
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Multigene Family*
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Receptors, Immunologic / chemistry
  • Receptors, Immunologic / genetics*
  • Receptors, Immunologic / physiology
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Virus Diseases / genetics
  • Virus Diseases / immunology


  • Ligands
  • Receptors, Immunologic