Because activating killer cell immunoglobulinlike receptors (KIRs) are heterogeneously expressed in the population, we investigated the role of donor activating KIRs in haploidentical hematopoietic transplants for acute leukemia. Transplants were grouped according to presence vs absence of KIR-ligand mismatches in the graft-vs-host direction (ie, of donor-vs-recipient natural killer [NK]-cell alloreactivity). In the absence of donor-vs-recipient NK-cell alloreactivity, donor activating KIRs had no effects on outcomes. In the 69 transplant pairs with donor-vs-recipient NK-cell alloreactivity, transplantation from donors with KIR2DS1 and/or KIR3DS1 was associated with reduced risk of nonrelapse mortality, largely infection related (KIR2DS1 present vs absent: hazard ratio [HR], 0.25; P = .01; KIR3DS1 present vs absent: HR, 0.18; P = .006), and better event-free survival (KIR2DS1 present vs absent: HR, 0.31; P = .011; KIR3DS1 present vs absent: HR, 0.30; P = .008). Transplantation from donors with KIR2DS1 and/or KIR3DS1 was also associated with a 50% reduction in infection rate (P = .003). In vitro analyses showed that KIR2DS1 binding to its HLA-C2 ligand upregulated inflammatory cytokine production by alloreactive NK cells in response to infectious challenges. Because ∼40% of donors able to exert donor-vs-recipient NK-cell alloreactivity carry KIR2DS1 and/or KIR3DS1, searching for them may become a feasible, additional criterion in donor selection.
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