Surface NK receptors and their ligands on tumor cells

Lorenzo Moretta, Cristina Bottino, Daniela Pende, Roberta Castriconi, Maria Cristina Mingari, Alessandro Moretta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The identification of MHC-class I-specific inhibitory receptors in humans and mice provided a first explanation of why NK cells can kill target cells that have lost or underexpress MHC-class I molecules but spare normal cells. However, the molecular basis of NK-mediated recognition and tumor cell killing revealed a higher degree of complexity. Thus, under pathological conditions, NK cells may express insufficient amounts of triggering receptors and target cells may or may not express ligands for such receptors. Here we briefly illustrate the main NK receptors and their cellular ligands and we delineate the major receptor/ligands interactions leading to NK cell activation and tumor cell lysis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-158
Number of pages8
JournalSeminars in Immunology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2006


  • Activating receptors
  • Cytolytic T lymphocytes
  • HLA-class I molecules
  • Inhibitory receptors
  • Killer Ig-like receptors
  • KIR repertoire
  • Natural killer cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Infectious Diseases


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