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Human-specific evolution of killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptor recognition of major histocompatibility complex class I molecules

Department of Structural Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.
Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences (Impact Factor: 6.31). 03/2012; 367(1590):800-11. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2011.0266
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT In placental mammals, natural killer (NK) cells are a population of lymphocytes that make unique contributions to immune defence and reproduction, functions essential for survival of individuals, populations and species. Modulating these functions are conserved and variable NK-cell receptors that recognize epitopes of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules. In humans, for example, recognition of human leucocyte antigen (HLA)-E by the CD94:NKG2A receptor is conserved, whereas recognition of HLA-A, B and C by the killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs) is diversified. Competing demands of the immune and reproductive systems, and of T-cell and NK-cell immunity-combined with the segregation on different chromosomes of variable NK-cell receptors and their MHC class I ligands-drive an unusually rapid evolution that has resulted in unprecedented levels of species specificity, as first appreciated from comparison of mice and humans. Counterparts to human KIR are present only in simian primates. Observed in these species is the coevolution of KIR and the four MHC class I epitopes to which human KIR recognition is restricted. Unique to hominids is the emergence of the MHC-C locus as a supplier of specialized and superior ligands for KIR. This evolutionary trend is most highly elaborated in the chimpanzee. Unique to the human KIR locus are two groups of KIR haplotypes that are present in all human populations and subject to balancing selection. Group A KIR haplotypes resemble chimpanzee KIR haplotypes and are enriched for genes encoding KIR that bind HLA class I, whereas group B KIR haplotypes are enriched for genes encoding receptors with diminished capacity to bind HLA class I. Correlating with their balance in human populations, B haplotypes favour reproductive success, whereas A haplotypes favour successful immune defence. Evolution of the B KIR haplotypes is thus unique to the human species.

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    • "The expanded KIR gene cluster is unique to primates, and typically there are only a few KIR genes in other vertebrate species (Parham et al. 2012). In humans, the KIRs are highly variable and in a state of evolutionary flux, and, curiously, humans are the only species that have distinctive A and B haplotypes (Parham et al. 2012). The reasons for these phenomena have not been established, but they are indicative of balancing selection, potentially driven by immunity and reproduction. "
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    ABSTRACT: The KIR complex appears to be evolving rapidly in humans, and more than 50 different haplotypes have been described, ranging from four to 14 KIR loci. Previously it has been suggested that most KIR haplotypes consist of framework genes, present in all individuals, which bracket a variable number of other genes. We used a new technique to type 793 families from the United Kingdom and United States for both the presence/absence of all individual KIR genes as well as copy number and found that KIR haplotypes are even more complex. It is striking that all KIR loci are subject to copy number variation (CNV), including the so-called framework genes, but CNV is much more frequent in KIR B haplotypes than KIR A haplotypes. These two basic KIR haplotype groups, A and B, appear to be following different evolutionary trajectories. Despite the great diversity, there are 11 common haplotypes, derived by reciprocal recombination near KIR2DL4, which collectively account for 94% of KIR haplotypes determined in Caucasian samples. These haplotypes could be derived from combinations of just three centromeic and two telomeric motifs, simplifying disease analysis for these haplotypes. The remaining 6% of haplotypes displayed novel examples of expansion and contraction of numbers of loci. Conventional KIR typing misses much of this additional complexity, with important implications for studying the genetics of disease association with KIR that can now be explored by CNV analysis.
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    ABSTRACT: Natural killer (NK) cells are a population of lymphocytes that function in both immune defense and reproduction. Diversifying NK cell phenotype and function are interactions between NK cell receptors and major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I ligands. As a consequence of strong and variable selection these ligand-receptor systems are polymorphic, rapidly evolving, and considerably species-specific. Counterparts to the human system of HLA class I ligands and killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIR) are present only in apes and Old World monkeys. HLA-C, the dominant ligand for human KIR and the only polymorphic HLA class I expressed by trophoblast, is further restricted to humans and great apes. Even then, the human system appears qualitatively different from that of chimpanzees, in that it has evolved a genetic balance between particular groups of receptors and ligands that favor reproductive success and other groups of receptors and ligands that have been correlated with disordered placentation. Human populations that have survived successive episodes of epidemic disease and population bottlenecks maintain a breadth of diversity for KIR and HLA class I, implying that loss of such diversity disfavors long-term survival of a human population.
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    ABSTRACT: A recently developed anti-KIR2DL5 (CD158f) antibody has demonstrated KIR2DL5 expression on the surface of NK and T lymphocytes, making it the last functional KIR identified in the human genome. KIR2DL5 belongs to an ancestral lineage of KIR with Ig-like domains of the D0-D2 type, of which KIR2DL4, an HLA-G receptor, is the only other human member. Despite KIR2DL4 and KIR2DL5 being encoded by genes with similar domain usage, several KIR2DL5 functions resemble more closely those of KIR recognizing classical HLA class I molecules - surface-expressed KIR2DL5 inhibits NK cells through the SHP-2 phosphatase and displays a clonal distribution on NK and T lymphocytes. No activating homolog of KIR2DL5 has been described in any species. The genetics of KIR2DL5 is complicated by duplication of its gene in an ancestor of modern humans living ∼1.7 million years ago. Both KIR2DL5 paralogs have undergone allelic diversification; the centromeric gene is most often represented by alleles whose expression is silenced epigenetically through DNA methylation, thus providing a natural system to investigate the regulation of KIR transcription. The role of KIR2DL5 in immunity is not completely understood, in spite of different attempts to define its ligand. Here we revisit the most relevant characteristics of KIR2DL5, an NK-cell receptor possessing a unique combination of genetic, structural, and functional features.
    Frontiers in Immunology 09/2012; 3:289. DOI:10.3389/fimmu.2012.00289
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