Molecular Mechanisms Directing Migration and Retention of Natural Killer Cells in Human Tissues

Roberta Castriconi, Paolo Carrega, Alessandra Dondero, Francesca Bellora, Beatrice Casu, Stefano Regis, Guido Ferlazzo, Cristina Bottino

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


A large body of data shows that Natural Killer (NK) cells are immune effectors exerting a potent cytolytic activity against tumors and virus infected cells. The discovery and characterization of several inhibitory and activating receptors unveiled most of the mechanisms allowing NK cells to spare healthy cells while selectively attacking abnormal tissues. Nevertheless, the mechanisms ruling NK cell subset recirculation among the different compartments of human body have only lately started to be investigated. This is particularly true for pathological settings such as tumors or infected tissues but also for para-physiological condition like pregnant human uterine mucosa. It is becoming evident that the microenvironment associated to a particular clinical condition can deeply influence the migratory capabilities of NK cells. In this review we describe the main mechanisms and stimuli known to regulate the expression of chemokine receptors and other molecules involved in NK cell homing to either normal or pathological/inflamed tissues, including tumors or organs such as lung and liver. We will also discuss the role played by the chemokine/chemokine receptor axes in the orchestration of physiological events such as NK cell differentiation, lymphoid organ retention/egress and recruitment to decidua during pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2324
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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