The Natural Cytotoxicity Receptors (NCRs), NKp46, NKp44, and NKp30, were some of the first human activating Natural Killer (NK) cell receptors involved in the non-MHC-restricted recognition of tumor cells to be cloned over 20 years ago. Since this time many host- and pathogen-encoded ligands have been proposed to bind the NCRs and regulate the cytotoxic and cytokine-secreting functions of tissue NK cells. This diverse set of NCR ligands can manifest on the surface of tumor or virus-infected cells or can be secreted extracellularly, suggesting a remarkable NCR polyfunctionality that regulates the activity of NK cells in different tissue compartments during steady state or inflammation. Moreover, the NCRs can also be expressed by other innate and adaptive immune cell subsets under certain tissue conditions potentially conferring NK recognition programs to these cells. Here we review NCR biology in health and disease with particular reference to how this important class of receptors regulates the functions of tissue NK cells as well as confer NK cell recognition patterns to other innate and adaptive lymphocyte subsets. Finally, we highlight how NCR biology is being harnessed for novel therapeutic interventions particularly for enhanced tumor surveillance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number909
JournalFrontiers in immunology
Issue numberMAY
StatePublished - 2019


  • Disease association
  • Immunoregulation
  • Natural killer cell
  • Receptors
  • Tissue homeostasis


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