Dimorphic relationships between genes on Chromosome (Chr)6, encoding Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA) and those on Chr19, encoding Killer-cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs) may eventually uncover important information as to how, why and when Natural Killer (NK) cells determine self restraint or attack cells infected by pathogens and disease. These proteins emerge from their respective zones, on each chromosome that have and continue to be subject to frequent recombination events.
The active region of Chr19 has a long history of recombinations that have and continue to define the expression patterns of telomeric and centromeric proportions of KIR gene's encoding receptors that bind cells presenting MHC class 1, HLA haplotype combinations that vary significantly across tissues in different population groups. Adding complexity, HLA genes on Chr6 are also subject to significant recombination making the dimorphic functional HLA-KIR interactions difficult to predict.
Studies across population groups reveal the great diversity of HLA-KIR dimorphisms. The Southern Han centromeric KIR region encodes strong, conserved, inhibitory HLA-C-specific receptors, and the telomeric region provides a high number and diversity of inhibitory HLA-A and -B-specific receptors. In all these characteristics, the Chinese Southern Han represent other East Asians, whose NK cell repertoires are thus enhanced in quantity, diversity, and effector strength, likely augmenting resistance to endemic viral infections.
One study goes much further suggesting that functional interactions between KIR and HLA modify risks of basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) and that KIR B haplotypes provide selective pressure for altered p53 in BCC tumors. This preference implicates multi-modal p53 mechanisms that are also known to upregulate NK ligands, induce HLA-A11 assembly against Epstein Bar Virus and bind a frequently mutated p53 peptide in a complex with HLA-A and presented at the cell surface that prevent T-Cell response. In support, selected p53 mutations altering protein stability can modulate p53 presentation to T cells, leading to a differential immune reactivity inversely correlated with measured p53 protein levels.
In addition to KIR, adaptive NKG2C+ NK cells display fine peptide specificity selectively to recognize HCMV strains that differed by a single substitution in the HLA-E-binding UL40-derived peptide during infection. Distinct peptides controlled the degree of proliferation in synergy with pro-inflammatory cytokines. Viral peptides are known to augment inhibition at NKG2A. Conversely, NKG2A+ NK cells sense MHC class I downregulation more efficiently than KIRs. Thus, both receptor:ligand systems appear to have complementary functions in recognizing changes in MHC class I.
Polymorphic landscapes across HLA, KIR and NKG receptor repertoires coupled with receptor:ligand haplotype cross referencing makes it near impossible to predict therapeutic targets across the breadth of disease and disease combinations that affect populations. A recent KIR-HLA co-existence study of haplotypes in Breast Cancer patients and controls highlights this complexity.
Genetic signatures that target discovery of desired cell functionality to select preferential cells/tissues from micro environments used to educate and license autologous or allogeneic NK cells may tease specific, finely tuned, intact receptor repertoires. Once licensing efficacy is reached, expanding NK cell populations and applying them to act upon previously unrecognizable cells of a patient becomes the next frontier of immune therapy. This is the exciting work presently being undertaken by researchers and staff working with Precision Autology using Codondex methodologies.