Definition of MHC class I ligands of rhesus macaque killer cell Ig-like receptors (KIRs) is fundamental to NK cell biology in this species as an animal model for infectious diseases, reproductive biology, and transplantation. To provide a more complete foundation for studying NK cell responses, rhesus macaque KIRs representing common allotypes of lineage II KIR genes were tested for interactions with MHC class I molecules representing diverse Macaca mulatta (Mamu)-A, -B, -E, -F, -I, and -AG alleles. KIR–MHC class I interactions were identified by coincubating reporter cell lines bearing chimeric KIR-CD3ζ receptors with target cells expressing individual MHC class I molecules and were corroborated by staining with KIR IgG-Fc fusion proteins. Ligands for 12 KIRs of previously unknown specificity were identified that fell into three general categories: interactions with multiple Mamu-Bw4 molecules, interactions with Mamu-A–related molecules, including allotypes of Mamu-AG and the hybrid Mamu-B*045:03 molecule, or interactions with Mamu-A1*012:01. Whereas most KIRs found to interact with Mamu-Bw4 are inhibitory, most of the KIRs that interact with Mamu-AG are activating. The KIRs that recognize Mamu-A1*012:01 belong to a phylogenetically distinct group of macaque KIRs with a 3-aa deletion in the D0 domain that is also present in human KIR3DL1/S1 and KIR3DL2. This study more than doubles the number of rhesus macaque KIRs with defined MHC class I ligands and identifies interactions with Mamu-AG, -B*045, and -A1*012. These findings support overlapping, but nonredundant, patterns of ligand recognition that reflect extensive functional diversification of these receptors.

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