Current liver research: Hepatitis C Virus infection is controlled by KIR3DS1/HLA-F interaction
Currently, more than 70 million people worldwide are infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Infection with HCV can lead to liver damage (cirrhosis) or even to liver cancer and may end in the need for liver transplantation. Therapeutic antibodies directed against Natural Killer (NK) cell receptors or their cellular ligands are powerful modulators of antitumor and antiviral NK cell immunity. Genetic association studies have shown, expression of KIR3DS1, an activating NK cell receptor, is associated with better outcome of HCV infections as well as with protection against HCC development.
Now, Dr. Lunemann et al., working for the CRC841 project A07 , have shown that KIR3DS1 interacts with its ligand HLA-F, a non-classical HLA-class I molecule, on HCV infected cells. During HCV infection, upregulation HLA-F leads to significant increased binding of KIR3DS1 and activation of KIR3DS1-expressing NK cells. These cells contribute to NK-cell mediated control of HCV and do play an important role in the antiviral immune response. Thus, strategies to harness the specific interactions between the KIR3DS1 and the HLA-F ligand might serve as a novel and promising tool in treating infectious diseases and cancer.