Killer cell Ig-like receptors (KIR) are MHC class I-binding immunoreceptors that can suppress activation of human NK cells through recruitment of the Src homology 2-containing protein tyrosine phosphatase-1 (SHP-1) to two immunoreceptor tyrosine-based inhibitory motifs (ITIMs) in their cytoplasmic domains. KIR2DL4 (2DL4; CD158d) is a structurally distinct member of the KIR family, which is expressed on most, if not all, human NK cells. 2DL4 contains only one ITIM in its cytoplasmic domain and an arginine in its transmembrane region, suggesting both inhibitory and activating functions. While 2DL4 can activate IFN-gamma production, dependent upon the transmembrane arginine, the function of the single ITIM of 2DL4 remains unknown. In this study, tandem ITIMs of KIR3DL1 (3DL1) and the single ITIM of 2DL4 were directly compared in functional and biochemical assays. Using a retroviral transduction method, we show in human NK cell lines that 1) the single ITIM of 2DL4 efficiently inhibits natural cytotoxicity responses; 2) the phosphorylated single ITIM recruits SHP-2 protein tyrosine phosphatase, but not SHP-1 in NK cells; 3) expression of dominant-negative SHP-1 does not block the ability of 2DL4 to inhibit natural cytotoxicity; 4) surprisingly, mutation of the tyrosine within the single ITIM does not completely abolish inhibitory function; and 5) this correlates with weak SHP-2 binding to the mutant ITIM of 2DL4 in NK cells and a corresponding nonphosphorylated ITIM peptide in vitro. These results reveal new aspects of the KIR-inhibitory pathway in human NK cells, which are SHP-1 and phosphotyrosine independent.
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