HIV's Evasion of Host's NK Cell Response and Novel Ways of its Countering and Boosting Anti-HIV Immunity

Ahmad, Ali; Ahmad, Rasheed
July 2003
Current HIV Research;Jul2003, Vol. 1 Issue 3, p295
Academic Journal
NK cells were characterized by their ability to spontaneously kill certain tumor and virus-infected cells. They constitute first line of defense against invading pathogens and usually become activated in viral infections particularly in early phases. Activated NK cells play a crucial role in the induction and amplification of virus-specific immunity by providing IFN-γ and "danger signal". The functional activities of NK cells are regulated by a balance between the engagement of their inhibitory and activating receptors. In recent years, the discovery of several MHC and non-MHC binding NK receptors has provided important insights regarding NK cell biology and its role in viral infections. These receptors are increasingly being viewed as important regulators of immune response. Like many other viruses, HIV also seems to activate NK cells. However, several studies have reported compromised NK cell functions in HIV-infected individuals. The virus employs several strategies to counter the host's NK cell response, e.g., a differential downregulation of MHC class I molecules on the surface of infected cells, a dysregulated production of NK cell function-enhancing cytokines, direct inhibitory effects of certain viral proteins on NK cell functions, and changes in the expression of NK cell receptors, etc. The individuals expressing activating NK cell receptors and their cognate MHC ligands have activated NK cells. The development of AIDS is significantly delayed in these individuals after HIV infection. The discovery of NK receptors and their ligands has opened new avenues of developing AIDS vaccine and boosting innate and adaptive antiviral immunity in HIV-infected individuals.


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