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Paired receptors are families of membrane proteins characterized by similar extracellular regions but different transmembrane and cytoplasmic regions, meaning that some members can give inhibitory signals and others activating signals. Well-characterized examples include the KIR, SIRP, Ly49, Nkpr, and Siglec families. The difference in the repertoire of these genes in mouse and man indicates that these families have evolved rapidly. For example, KIRs are found in humans and not mice, and Ly49 shows the converse. These genes are often very polymorphic, e.g. KIR and the number of genes can vary as shown for Ly49 in different mouse strains. Paired receptors are expressed mainly on NK and myeloid cells and their evolution is thought to be pathogen driven. In this article, we review various receptor families for which pathogen interactions are known and discuss the possible molecular mechanisms driving their evolution.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur J Immunol

Publication Date





303 - 313


Animals, Evolution, Molecular, Host-Pathogen Interactions, Humans, Membrane Proteins, Receptors, Cell Surface