Activating KIRs and NKG2C in viral infections: Toward NK cell memory?

Mariella Della Chiesa, Simona Sivori, Simona Carlomagno, Lorenzo Moretta, Alessandro Moretta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Natural killer (NK) cells are important players in the immune defense against viral infections. The contribution of activating killer immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs) and CD94/NKG2C in regulating anti-viral responses has recently emerged. Thus, in the hematopoietic stem cell transplantation setting, the presence of donor activating KIRs (aKIRs) may protect against viral infections, while in HIV-infected individuals, KIR3DS1, in combination with HLA-Bw4-I80, results in reduction of viral progression. Since, studies have been performed mainly at the genetic or transcriptional level, the effective size, the function, and the "licensing" status of NK cells expressing aKIRs, as well as the nature of their viral ligands, require further investigation. Certain viral infections, mainly due to Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), can deeply influence the NK cell development and function by inducing a marked expansion of mature NKG2C+ NK cells expressing self-activating KIRs. This suggests that NKG2C and/or aKIRs are involved in the selective proliferation of this subset. The persistent, HCMV-induced, imprinting suggests that NK cells may display unexpected adaptive immune traits. The role of aKIRs and NKG2C in regulating NK cell responses and promoting a memory-like response to certain viruses is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number573
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Issue numberNOV
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Activating KIRs
  • HCMV
  • HIV
  • Human NK cells
  • Memory
  • NKG2C

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Immunology and Allergy


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