Activation, coactivation, and costimulation of resting human natural killer cells

Immunol Rev. 2006 Dec;214:73-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-065X.2006.00457.x.


Natural killer (NK) cells possess potent perforin- and interferon-gamma-dependent effector functions that are tightly regulated. Inhibitory receptors for major histocompatibility complex class I display variegated expression among NK cells, which confers specificity to individual NK cells. Specificity is also provided by engagement of an array of NK cell activation receptors. Target cells may express ligands for a multitude of activation receptors, many of which signal through different pathways. How inhibitory receptors intersect different signaling cascades is not fully understood. This review focuses on advances in understanding how activation receptors cooperate to induce cytotoxicity in resting NK cells. The role of activating receptors in determining specificity and providing redundancy of target cell recognition is discussed. Using Drosophila insect cells as targets, we have examined the contribution of individual receptors. Interestingly, the strength of activation is not determined simply by additive effects of parallel activation pathways. Combinations of signals from different receptors can have different outcomes: synergy, no enhancement over individual signals, or additive effects. Cytotoxicity requires combined signals for granule polarization and degranulation. The integrin leukocyte function-associated antigen-1 contributes a signal for polarization but not for degranulation. Conversely, CD16 alone or in synergistic combinations, such as NKG2D and 2B4, signals for phospholipase-C-gamma- and phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase-dependent degranulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / cytology*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / metabolism
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology*
  • Resting Phase, Cell Cycle / immunology*