- Abstract Combating diseases such as cancer and virus infection is one of the major goals of the next millennium. Remarkably, our immune system has developed a unique cell type called Natural Killer (NK) cells, able to kill cancer and virus-infected cells. The nature of the lysis/killer receptors expressed on NK cells, mediating this killing, and their ligands, is only little understood. Four lysis receptors for human NK cells were recently identified, including the NKp30, NKp44, NKp46 and CD16, all of which are capable of mediating direct killing of virus-infected and tumor cells. Among these, the NKp46 receptor is considered to be the major lysis receptor for NK cells. The viral hemagglutinin protein was recently identified as the ligand for the NKp46 receptor. However, the cellular (non-viral) ligands recognized by all of the lysis receptors (NKp30, NKp44, NKp46 and CD16) are currently unknown.