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Class I HLA haplotypes form two schools that educate NK cells in different ways

Horowitz, A., Djaoud, Z., Nemat-Gorgani, N. et al.

Natural killer (NK) cells are lymphocytes having vital functions in innate and adaptive immunity, as well as placental reproduction. Controlling education and functional activity of human NK cells are various receptors that recognize HLA class I on the surface of tissue cells. Epitopes of polymorphic HLA-A, -B and -C are recognized by equally diverse killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIR). In addition, a peptide cleaved from the leader sequence of HLA-A, -B or -C must bind to HLA-E for it to become a ligand for the conserved CD94:NKG2A receptor. Methionine/threonine dimorphism at position -21 of the leader sequence divides HLA-B allotypes into a majority having -21T that do not supply HLA-E binding peptides and a minority having -21M, that do. Genetic analysis of human populations worldwide shows how haplotypes with -21M HLA-B rarely encode the KIR ligands: Bw4+HLA-B and C2+HLA-C KIR. Thus there are two fundamental forms of HLA haplotype: one preferentially supplying CD94:NKG2A ligands, the other preferentially supplying KIR ligands. -21 HLA-B dimorphism divides the human population into three groups: M/M, M/T and T/T. Mass cytometry and assays of immune function, shows how M/M and M/T individuals have CD94:NKG2A+ NK cells which are better educated, phenotypically more diverse and functionally more potent than those in T/T individuals. Fundamental new insights are given to genetic control of NK cell immunity and the evolution that has limited the number of NK cell receptor ligands encoded by an HLA haplotype. These findings suggest new ways to dissect the numerous clinical associations with HLA class I.

Citation

Horowitz, A., Djaoud, Z., Nemat-Gorgani, N. et al. "Class I HLA haplotypes form two schools that educate NK cells in different ways" Science Immunology (2016): eaag1672