CD8 T cells express randomly selected KIRs with distinct specificities compared with NK cells

Blood. 2012 Oct 25;120(17):3455-65. doi: 10.1182/blood-2012-03-416867. Epub 2012 Sep 11.


Epistatic interactions between killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs) and their cognate HLA class I ligands have important implications for reproductive success, antiviral immunity, susceptibility to autoimmune conditions and cancer, as well as for graft-versus-leukemia reactions in settings of allogeneic stem cell transplantation. Although CD8 T cells are known to acquire KIRs when maturing from naive to terminally differentiated cells, little information is available about the constitution of KIR repertoires on human CD8 T cells. Here, we have performed a high-resolution analysis of KIR expression on CD8 T cells. The results show that most CD8 T cells possess a restricted KIR expression pattern, often dominated by a single activating or inhibitory KIR. Furthermore, the expression of KIR, and its modulation of CD8 T-cell function, was independent of expression of self-HLA class I ligands. Finally, despite similarities in the stochastic regulation of KIRs by the bidirectional proximal promoter, the specificity of inhibitory KIRs on CD8 T cells was often distinct from that of natural killer cells in the same individual. The results provide new insight into the formation of KIR repertoires on human T cells.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Cell Communication / genetics
  • Cell Communication / immunology
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology
  • Epistasis, Genetic / immunology*
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gene Expression / immunology*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / genetics
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / immunology
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Killer Cells, Natural / cytology
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / metabolism
  • Luciferases
  • Male
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / immunology
  • Receptors, KIR / biosynthesis
  • Receptors, KIR / genetics
  • Receptors, KIR / immunology*


  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Receptors, KIR
  • Luciferases