Natural Killer Cell Education and the Response to Infection and Cancer Therapy: Stay Tuned

Trends Immunol. 2018 Mar;39(3):222-239. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2018 Jan 31.


The functional capacities of natural killer (NK) cells differ within and between individuals, reflecting considerable genetic variation. 'Licensing/arming', 'disarming', and 'tuning' are models that have been proposed to explain how interactions between MHC class I molecules and their cognate inhibitory receptors - Ly49 in mice and KIR in humans - 'educate' NK cells for variable reactivity and sensitivity to inhibition. In this review we discuss recent progress toward understanding the genetic, epigenetic, and molecular features that titrate NK effector function and inhibition, and the impact of variable NK cell education on human health and disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / genetics
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immune System Diseases / genetics
  • Immune System Diseases / immunology*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / physiology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Receptors, KIR / genetics
  • Receptors, KIR / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Receptors, KIR