Killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs) are members of a group of regulatory molecules found on subsets of lymphoid cells. They were first identified by their ability to impart some specificity on natural killer (NK) cytolysis.
The KIR locus, containing a family of polymorphic and highly homologous genes, maps to chromosome 19q13.4 within the 1 Mb leukocyte receptor complex. The discovery of KIR has revealed an additional function of the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I molecules. Through their interaction with KIR isotypes that inhibit natural killer (NK) cell activity, certain HLA class I molecules are now known to protect healthy cells from spontaneous destruction by NK-cell-mediated cytolysis. Other KIR isotypes stimulate the activity of NK cells. The degree of HLA/KIR compatibility may determine the success rate of haematopoietic cell replacement therapy for certain leukemia’s.
KIR typing is used for selecting the best hematopoietic stem cell transplant donor for recipients with multiple donors who are potential HLA-matched or otherwise equivalent. The identification of KIR genotypes can allow for an improved donor selection that may lead to enhanced engraftment and reduced graft-versus-host disease.
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