NK cells are cytotoxic innate lymphocytes that play a critical role in antitumor immunity. NK cells recognize target cells by using a repertoire of activating NK receptors and exert the effector functions. Although the magnitude of activation signals through activating NK receptors controls NK cell function, it has not been fully understood how these activating signals are modulated in NK cells. In this study, we found that a scaffold protein, THEMIS2, inhibits activating NK receptor signaling. Overexpression of THEMIS2 attenuated the effector function of human NK cells, whereas knockdown of THEMIS2 enhanced it. Mechanistically, THEMIS2 binds to GRB2 and phosphorylated SHP-1 and SHP-2 at the proximity of activating NK receptors DNAM-1 and NKG2D. Knockdown of THEMIS2 in primary human NK cells promoted the effector functions. Furthermore, Themis2-deficient mice showed low metastatic burden in an NK cell–dependent manner. These findings demonstrate that THEMIS2 has an inhibitory role in the antitumor activity of NK cells, suggesting that THEMIS2 might be a potential therapeutic target for NK cell–mediated cancer immunotherapy.

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