NK cells are critical in the early containment of viral infections. Epidemiological and functional studies have shown an important role of NK cells expressing specific killer immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs) in the control of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection, but little is known about the mechanisms that determine the expansion of these antiviral NK cell populations during acute HIV-1 infection. Here we demonstrate that NK cells expressing the activating receptor KIR3DS1+ and, to a lesser extent, the inhibitory receptor KIR3DL1+ specifically expand in acute HIV-1 infection in the presence of HLA-B Bw480I, the putative HLA class I ligand for KIR3DL1/3DS1. These data demonstrate for the first time the HLA class I subtype-dependent expansion of specific KIR+ NK cells during an acute viral infection in humans.
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