Mouse CD1d1, a member of the CD1 family of evolutionarily conserved major histocompatibility antigen-like molecules, controls the differentiation and function of a T lymphocyte subset, NK+ natural T cells, proposed to regulate immune responses. The CD1d1 crystal structure revealed a large hydrophobic binding site occupied by a ligand of unknown chemical nature. Mass spectrometry and metabolic radiolabeling were used to identify cellular glycosylphosphatidylinositol as major natural ligand of CD1d1. CD1d1 bound glycosylphosphatidylinositol through its phosphatidylinositol aspect with high affinity. Glycosylphosphatidylinositol or another glycolipid could be a candidate natural ligand for CD1d1-restricted T cells.
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