Hepatocellular carcinoma is a common malignant tumor with high mortality. Its malignant proliferation, invasion, and metastasis are closely related to the cellular immune function of the patients. NKG2D is a key activated and type II membrane protein molecule expressed on the surface of almost all NK cells. The human NKG2D gene is 270 kb long, located at 12p12.3–p13.1, and contains 10 exons and 9 introns. The three-dimensional structure of the NKG2D monomeric protein contains two alpha-helices, two beta-lamellae, and four disulfide bonds, and its' signal of activation is transmitted mainly by the adaptor protein (DAP). NKG2D ligands, including MICA, MICB, and ULBPs, can be widely expressed in hepatoma cells. After a combination of NKG2D and DAP10 in the form of homologous two polymers, the YxxM motif in the cytoplasm is phosphorylated and then signaling pathways are also gradually activated, such as PI3K, PLCγ2, JNK-cJunN, and others. Activated NK cells can enhance the sensitivity to hepatoma cells and specifically dissolve by releasing a variety of cytokines (TNF-α and IFN-γ), perforin, and high expression of FasL, CD16, and TRAIL. NK cells may specifically bind to the over-expressed MICA, MICB, and ULBPs of hepatocellular carcinoma cells through the surface activating receptor NKG2D, which can help to accurately identify hepatoma, play a critical role in anti-hepatoma via the pathway of cytotoxic effects, and obviously delay the poor progress of hepatocellular carcinoma.
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