Human Natural Killer cell expression of ULBP2 is associated with a mature functional phenotype

Kiva Brennan, Brian P McSharry, Sinéad Keating, Andreea Petrasca, Vincent P O'Reilly, Joseph Keane, Derek G Doherty, Clair M Gardiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


NKG2D is an important activating receptor expressed on NK cells. Ligands (termed NKG2DL) for this receptor include ULBP1-6, MICA and MICB in humans; they are upregulated in stressed, cancerous or infected cells where they engage NKG2D to induce NK cell cytotoxicity and cytokine production.

Expression of NKG2DL on effector cells has been described in mice and more recently in human cells. We confirm that NK cell lines and IL-2 stimulated primary human NK cells also express the NKG2DL, ULBP2. However, expression of ULBP2 was not a result of transfer from a non-NK cell to an NK cell and in contrast to recent reports we saw no evidence that ULBP2 expression targeted these NK cells for fratricide or for cytotoxicity by NKG2D-expressing, non-NK effector cells.

ULBP2 expression was however linked to expression of mature CD57+ NK cells. In particular, expression of ULBP2 was strongest on those NK cells that had evidence of recent activation and proliferation. We suggest that ULBP2 could be used to identify recently activated “mature” NK cells. Defining this phenotype would be useful for understanding the ontogeny on human NK cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)876-885
Number of pages10
JournalHuman Immunology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2016


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