CD94/NKG2A inhibits NK cell activation by disrupting the actin network at the immunological synapse

Madhan Masilamani, Connie Nguyen, Juraj Kabat, Francisco Borrego, John E. Coligan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


An adequate immune response is the result of the fine balance between activation and inhibitory signals. The exact means by which inhibitory signals obviate activation signals in immune cells are not totally elucidated. Human CD94/NKG2A is an ITIM-containing inhibitory receptor expressed by NK cells and some CD8+ T cells that recognize HLA-E. We show that the engagement of this receptor prevents NK cell activation by disruption of the actin network and exclusion of lipid rafts at the point of contact with its ligand (inhibitory NK cell immunological synapse, INKIS). CD94/NKG2A engagement leads to recruitment and activation of src homology 2 domain-bearing tyrosine phosphatase 1. This likely explains the observed dephosphorylation of guanine nucleotide exchange factor and regulator of actin, Vav1, as well as ezrin-radixin-moesin proteins that connect actin filaments to membrane structures. In contrast, NK cell activation by NKG2D induced Vav1 and ezrin-radixin-moesin phosphorylation. Thus, CD94/NKG2A prevents actin-dependent recruitment of raft-associated activation receptors complexes to the activating synapse. This was further substantiated by showing that inhibition of actin polymerization abolished lipid rafts exclusion at the iNKIS, whereas cholesterol depletion had no effect on actin disruption at the iNKIS. These data indicate that the lipid rafts exclusion at the iNKIS is an active process which requires an intact cytoskeleton to maintain lipid rafts outside the inhibitory synapse. The net effect is to maintain an inhibitory state in the proximity of the iNKIS, while allowing the formation of activation synapse at distal points within the same NK cell.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3590-3596
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 15 Sep 2006
Externally publishedYes


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