Several reports have indicated that natural killer (NK) cells are of particular importance in the innate response against herpesvirus infections. As a consequence, herpesviruses have developed diverse mechanisms for evading NK cells, although few such mechanisms have been identified for the largest herpesvirus subfamily, the alphaherpesviruses. The antiviral activity of NK cells is regulated by a complex array of interactions between activating/inhibitory receptors on the NK cell surface and the corresponding ligands on the surfaces of virus-infected cells. Here we report that the US3 protein kinase of the alphaherpesvirus pseudorabies virus (PRV) displays previously uncharacterized immune evasion properties: it triggers the binding of the inhibitory NK cell receptor CD300a to the surface of the infected cell, thereby providing increased CD300a-mediated protection of infected cells against NK cell-mediated lysis. US3-mediated CD300a binding was found to depend on aminophospholipid ligands of CD300a and on group I p21-activated kinases. These data identify a novel alphaherpesvirus strategy for evading NK cells and demonstrate, for the first time, a role for CD300a in regulating NK cell activity upon contact with virus-infected target cells.
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