Deciphering the killer-cell immunoglobulin-like receptor system at super-resolution for natural killer and T-cell biology

Immunology. 2017 Mar;150(3):248-264. doi: 10.1111/imm.12684. Epub 2016 Dec 14.


Killer-cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs) are components of two fundamental biological systems essential for human health and survival. First, they contribute to host immune responses, both innate and adaptive, through their expression by natural killer cells and T cells. Second, KIR play a key role in regulating placentation, and hence reproductive success. Analogous to the diversity of their human leucocyte antigen class I ligands, KIR are extremely polymorphic. In this review, we describe recent developments, fuelled by methodological advances, that are helping to decipher the KIR system in terms of haplotypes, polymorphisms, expression patterns and their ligand interactions. These developments are delivering deeper insight into the relevance of KIR in immune system function, evolution and disease.

Keywords: expression; haplotypes; killer-cell immunoglobulin-like receptors; ligands; natural killer cell; polymorphism.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Placentation / immunology
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Pregnancy
  • Receptors, KIR / genetics
  • Receptors, KIR / metabolism*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Receptors, KIR