Natural killer lymphocytes: "null cells" no more.

A. Moretta, C. Bottino, S. Sivori, E. Marcenaro, R. Castriconi, M. Della Chiesa, S. Carlomagno, R. Augugliaro, M. Nanni, M. Vitale, R. Millo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Natural Killer (NK) lymphocytes were initially described as potent effector cells that, unlike T lymphocytes, were able to kill targets in the absence of a priori stimulation and without specific recognition mechanisms. Over the past ten years however, it has been clearly demonstrated that NK cell function is regulated by a number of surface receptors that bind specific ligands expressed by target cells. Some of these receptors display inhibitory functions and recognize MHC class I molecules expressed by normal autologous cells that, as a consequence, are spared from indiscriminate NK-mediated killing. Other receptors are involved in NK cell activation against allogeneic cells or cells that, upon viral infection or tumor transformation, down-regulate MHC Class I expression. Altogether these data provide important advances toward the understanding of the complexity of the molecular mechanisms that regulate NK-mediated functions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335-342
Number of pages8
JournalItalian journal of anatomy and embryology = Archivio italiano di anatomia ed embriologia
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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