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Diverse cell types use a small number of evolutionarily conserved signaling modules to integrate external cues and elicit distinct functions. A question thus arises as to how does a receptor, which contains a single signaling module, produce distinct outcomes to diverse signals, particularly if such module is shared amongst a family of receptors? Emerging data suggest that many immunoreceptors, all of which use a conserved ITAM-module for their signaling, can couple with members of additional classes of membrane receptors to deliver unique signal(s) to the cell. We discuss the possible biological purposes and mechanisms behind these interactions at the plasma membrane. We offer a conceptual framework to understand information processing within the immune system and discuss the new biology of old receptors involving their structural and functional collaborations that evolved to deliver unique signal(s) to the cell using a limited set of conserved signaling modules.

Original publication




Journal article


Curr Opin Immunol

Publication Date





58 - 66


Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing, Animals, Humans, Immunity, Innate, Receptors, Natural Killer Cell, Signal Transduction