Transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation of NK cell development and function

Jeffrey W. Leong, Julia A. Wagner, Aaron R. Ireland, Todd A. Fehniger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Natural killer (NK) cells are specialized innate lymphoid cells that survey against viral infections and malignancy. Numerous advances have improved our understanding of the molecular mechanisms that control NK cell development and function over the past decade. These include both studies on the regulatory effects of transcription factors and translational repression via microRNAs. In this review, we summarize our current knowledge of DNA-binding transcription factors that regulate gene expression and thereby orchestrate NK cell development and activation, with an emphasis on recent discoveries. Additionally, we highlight our understanding of how RNA-binding microRNAs fine tune the NK cell molecular program. We also underscore the large number of open questions in the field that are now being addressed using new technological approaches and genetically engineered model organisms. Ultimately, a deeper understanding of the basic molecular biology of NK cells will facilitate new strategies to manipulate NK cells for the treatment of human disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-69
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Immunology
StatePublished - Apr 2017


  • Innate lymphoid cells
  • MicroRNAs
  • Molecular biology
  • NK cells
  • Transcription factors
  • mRNA


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