The Journal of biological chemistry

Attenuated natural killer (NK) cell activation through C-type lectin-like receptor NKp80 is due to an anomalous hemi-immunoreceptor tyrosine-based activation motif (HemITAM) with impaired Syk kinase recruitment capacity.

PMID 23609447


Cellular cytotoxicity is the hallmark of NK cells mediating both elimination of virus-infected or malignant cells, and modulation of immune responses. NK cytotoxicity is triggered upon ligation of various activating NK cell receptors. Among these is the C-type lectin-like receptor NKp80 which is encoded in the human Natural Killer Gene Complex (NKC) adjacent to its ligand, activation-induced C-type lectin (AICL). NKp80-AICL interaction promotes cytolysis of malignant myeloid cells, but also stimulates the mutual crosstalk between NK cells and monocytes. While many activating NK cell receptors pair with ITAM-bearing adaptors, we recently reported that NKp80 signals via a hemITAM-like sequence in its cytoplasmic domain. Here we molecularly dissect the NKp80 hemITAM and demonstrate that two non-consensus amino acids, in particular arginine 6, critically impair both hemITAM phosphorylation and Syk recruitment. Impaired Syk recruitment results in a substantial attenuation of cytotoxic responses upon NKp80 ligation. Reconstituting the hemITAM consensus or Syk overexpression resulted in robust NKp80-mediated responsiveness. Collectively, our data provide a molecular rationale for the restrained activation potential of NKp80 and illustrate how subtle alterations in signaling motifs determine subsequent cellular responses. They also suggest that non-consensus alterations in the NKp80 hemITAM, as commonly present among mammalian NKp80 sequences, may have evolved to dampen NKp80-mediated cytotoxic responses toward AICL-expressing cells.