We imaged primary NK cells over lipid bilayers carrying IgG1 Fc to stimulate CD16 and human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-E to inhibit through receptor CD94-NKG2A. HLA-E alone induced Crk phosphorylation in NKG2A(+) NK cells.
At activating synapses with Fc alone, Crk was required for the movement of Fc microclusters and their ability to trigger activation signals.
At inhibitory synapses, HLA-E promoted central accumulation of both Fc and phosphorylated Crk and blocked the Fc-induced buildup of F-actin. We propose a unified model for inhibitory receptor function: Crk phosphorylation prevents essential Crk-dependent activation signals and blocks F-actin network formation, thereby reducing constraints on subsequent engagement of activation receptors.