We review what is presently known about structure, cellular distribution, biochemical characteristics, and function of a new family of human cell-surface receptors referred to as immunoglobulin-like transcripts (ILTs), leukocyte Ig-like receptors (LIRs), or monocyte/macrophage Ig-like receptors (MIRs). These receptors are genetically, structurally, and functionally related to a group of natural killer (NK) cell receptors for HLA class I molecules known as killer cell Ig-like receptors (KIRs). Distinct ILT/LIR/MIR isotypes are differentially expressed on lymphocytes, monocytes, macrophages, dendritic cells, and granulocytes; at least some of them recognize HLA class I molecules. Whereas some isotypes either inhibit or induce cell activation, others may be secreted as soluble receptors. ILT/LIR/MIR receptors may allow all immune cells to monitor class I expression on other cells and to respond in its absence, just as NK cells do. In addition, they may contribute to homeostasis by establishing activation thresholds that can be overcome only by relevant triggering stimuli and not by bystander cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-381
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Leukocyte Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1999


  • Cell surface molecules major histocompatibility complex
  • Dendritic cells
  • Human
  • Monocytes/macrophages


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