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CD161 is a C-type lectin-like receptor expressed on human natural killer (NK) cells and subsets of T cells. CD161 has been described as an inhibitory receptor that regulates NK cell-mediated cytotoxicity and IFN-γ production. Its role on T cells has remained unclear. Studies have shown that triggering of CD161 enhances NK T cell proliferation and T cell-IFN-γ production while inhibiting TNF-α production by CD8(+) T cells. Lectin-like transcript 1 (LLT1), the ligand of CD161, was found to be expressed on Toll-like receptor (TLR)-activated plasmacytoid and monocyte-derived dendritic cells (DC) and on activated B cells. Using newly developed anti-LLT1 mAbs, we show that LLT1 is not expressed on the surface of circulating B and T lymphocytes, NK cells, monocytes, and dendritic cells but that LLT1 is up-regulated upon activation. Not only TLR-stimulated dendritic cells and B cells but also T cell receptor-activated T cells and activated NK cells up-regulate LLT1. Interestingly, IFN-γ increases LLT1 expression level on antigen-presenting cells. LLT1 is also induced on B cells upon viral infection such as Epstein-Barr virus or HIV infection and in inflamed tonsils. Finally, expression of LLT1 on B cells inhibits NK cell function but costimulates T cell proliferation or IFN-γ production, and coengagement of CD161 with CD3 increases IL-17 secretion. Altogether, our results point toward a role for LLT1/CD161 in modulating immune responses to pathogens.

Original publication




Journal article


J Biol Chem

Publication Date





37964 - 37975


Animals, Cell Line, Cell Membrane, Gene Expression Regulation, Hematopoietic Stem Cells, Humans, Immune System, Interferon-gamma, Interferons, Lectins, C-Type, Leukocytes, Mononuclear, Mice, Models, Biological, NK Cell Lectin-Like Receptor Subfamily B, Receptors, Cell Surface, T-Lymphocytes, Toll-Like Receptors