NK cells are innate lymphoid cells that are critical for host defense against infection, and mediate anti-tumor responses. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a large family of small noncoding RNAs that target the 3′ untranslated region (UTR) of mRNAs, thereby attenuating protein translation. The expression of miRNAs within human peripheral blood and mouse splenic NK cells has been cataloged, with the majority of the miRNA sequence pool represented in the top 60 most abundantly expressed miRNAs. Global miRNA deficiency within NK cells has confirmed their critical role in NK-cell biology, including defects in NK-cell development and altered functionality. Studies using gain- and loss-of-function of individual miRNAs in NK cells have demonstrated the role of specific miRNAs in regulating NK-cell development, maturation, and activation. miRNAs also regulate fundamental NK-cell processes including cytokine production, cytotoxicity, and proliferation. This review provides an update on the intrinsic miRNA regulation of NK cells, including miRNA expression profiles, as well as their impact on NK-cell biology. Additional profiling is needed to better understand miRNA expression within NK-cell developmental intermediates, subsets, tissues, and in the setting of disease. Furthermore, key open questions in the field as well as technical challenges in the study of miRNAs in NK cells are highlighted.
- NK cell