Natural killer (NK) cells play a vital role in innate immune responses to infection; they express activation receptors that recognize virus-infected cells. Highly related to receptors recognizing tumor cells, the activation receptors trigger cytotoxicity and cytokine production. NK cells also express inhibitory receptors for major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules that block the action of the activation receptors. Although many ligands for NK cell receptors have MHC class I folds, recent studies also indicate ligands resembling the NK cell receptors themselves. A combination of immunologic, genetic, biophysical, and in vivo approaches is being employed to understand fully how these receptors contribute to NK cell activities in innate immunity to pathogens and tumors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-325
Number of pages9
JournalImmunologic Research
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - 2005


  • Innate immunity
  • Ligands
  • Natural killer cells
  • Receptors
  • Viral infection


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