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The natural killer group 2 member D (NKG2D) receptor and its family of NKG2D ligands (NKG2DLs) are key components in the innate immune system, triggering NK, γδ and CD8+ T cell-mediated immune responses. While surface NKG2DL are rarely found on healthy cells, expression is significantly increased in response to various types of cellular stress, viral infection, and tumour cell transformation. In order to evade immune-mediated cytotoxicity, both pathogenic viruses and cancer cells have evolved various mechanisms of subverting immune defences and preventing NKG2DL expression. Comparisons of the mechanisms employed following virus infection or malignant transformation reveal a pattern of converging evolution at many of the key regulatory steps involved in NKG2DL expression and subsequent immune responses. Exploring ways to target these shared steps in virus- and cancer-mediated immune evasion may provide new mechanistic insights and therapeutic opportunities, for example, using oncolytic virotherapy to re-engage the innate immune system towards cancer cells.

Original publication




Journal article


Cancers (Basel)

Publication Date





NK cells, NKG2D ligands, NKG2D receptor, cancer, convergent evolution, immune evasion, immunotherapy, viruses