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Genetic studies associate killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs) and their HLA class I ligands with a variety of human diseases. The basis for these associations and the relative contribution of inhibitory and activating KIR to NK cell responses are unclear. Because KIR binding to HLA-I is peptide dependent, we performed systematic screens, which totaled more than 3500 specific interactions, to determine the specificity of five KIR for peptides presented by four HLA-C ligands. Inhibitory KIR2DL1 was largely peptide sequence agnostic and could bind ~60% of hundreds of HLA-peptide complexes tested. Inhibitory KIR2DL2, KIR2DL3, and activating KIR2DS1 and KIR2DS4 bound only 10% and down to 1% of HLA-peptide complexes tested, respectively. Activating KIR2DS1, previously described as weak, had high binding affinity for HLA-C, with high peptide sequence specificity. Our data revealed MHC-restricted peptide recognition by germline-encoded NK receptors and suggest that NK cell responses can be shaped by HLA-I–bound immunopeptidomes in the context of disease or infection.

Original publication




Journal article


Science Immunology


American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

Publication Date