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Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 203628, 15 pages
Review Article

The Structural Basis of Ligand Recognition by Natural Killer Cell Receptors

Structural Immunology Section, Laboratory of Immunogenetics, NIAID, NIH, 12441 Parklawn Drive, Rockville, MD 20852, USA

Received 7 February 2011; Accepted 14 March 2011

Academic Editor: John E. Coligan

Copyright © 2011 M. Gordon Joyce and Peter D. Sun. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Natural killer cells are a group of lymphocytes which function as tightly controlled surveillance operatives which identify transformed cells through a discrete balance of activating and inhibitory receptors ultimately leading to the destruction of incongruent cells. The understanding of this finely tuned balancing act has been aided by the high-resolution structure determination of activating and inhibitory receptors both alone and in complex with their ligands. This paper collates these structural studies detailing the aspects which directly relate to the natural killer cell function and serves to inform both the specialized structural biologist reader and a more general immunology audience.