Regulation of NKG2D Ligand Gene Expression

Hum Immunol. 2006 Mar;67(3):159-69. doi: 10.1016/j.humimm.2006.02.015. Epub 2006 Apr 17.


The activating immunoreceptor NKG2D has seven known host ligands encoded by the MHC class I chain-related MIC and ULBP/RAET genes. Why there is such diversity of NKG2D ligands is not known but one hypothesis is that they are differentially expressed in different tissues in response to different stresses. To explore this, we compared expression patterns and promoters of NKG2D ligand genes. ULBP/RAET genes were transcribed independent of each other in a panel of cell lines. ULBP/RAET gene expression was upregulated on infection with human cytomegalovirus; however, a clinical strain, Toledo, induced expression more slowly than did a laboratory strain, AD169. ULBP4/RAET1E was not induced by infection with either strain. To investigate the mechanisms behind the similarities and differences in NKG2D ligand gene expression a comparative sequence analysis of NKG2D ligand gene putative promoter regions was conducted. Sequence alignments demonstrated that there was significant sequence diversity; however, one region of high similarity between most of the genes is evident. This region contains a number of potential transcription factor binding sites, including those involved in shock responses and sites for retinoic acid-induced factors. Promoters of some NKG2D ligand genes are polymorphic and several sequence alterations in these alleles abolished putative transcription factor binding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Line
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / immunology
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / biosynthesis*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / genetics
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • NK Cell Lectin-Like Receptor Subfamily K
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Receptors, Immunologic / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Natural Killer Cell
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid


  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • KLRK1 protein, human
  • Ligands
  • NK Cell Lectin-Like Receptor Subfamily K
  • Receptors, Immunologic
  • Receptors, Natural Killer Cell