Natural Killer (NK) cells are a necessary component of the innate immune system that guard against pathogens and cancer. In order to fulfill this task, NK cells must be able to discriminate between normal healthy cells and those that have become infected or transformed. In the mouse, members of the Ly49 gene family are expressed in overlapping NK cell subsets and bind to products of the class I major histocompatibility complex (MHC) resulting in inhibition of NK cell activation. Through genetic mapping and cloning we have shown that Ly49 repertoires are highly polymorphic, so that different numbers and types of Ly49 genes with unique class I MHC-binding characteristics are expressed in different inbred mouse strains. This situation in the mouse is highly similar to the gene plasticity seen in the functional analogues (KIR) in humans. Our laboratory is interested in dissecting the contribution of different cell surface receptors in the control of NK cell function during challenge of the immune system. This goal is being pursued using various molecular techniques including gene cloning, genomic manipulation in the mouse, production of NK cell receptor-specific antibodies, and in vitro NK cell functional assays.
Last updated: April 07, 2015