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J Clin Invest. 2010 May;120(5):1578-90. doi: 10.1172/JCI41502. Epub 2010 Apr 19.

The diabetogenic mouse MHC class II molecule I-Ag7 is endowed with a switch that modulates TCR affinity.

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  • 1Department of Immunology and Microbial Science, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.

Abstract

Genetic susceptibility to autoimmunity is frequently associated with specific MHC alleles. Diabetogenic MHC class II molecules, such as human HLA-DQ8 and mouse I-Ag7, typically have a small, uncharged amino acid residue at position 57 of their beta chain (beta57); this results in the absence of a salt bridge between beta57 and Argalpha76, which is adjacent to the P9 pocket of the peptide-binding groove. However, the influence of Argalpha76 on the selection of the TCR repertoire remains unknown, particularly when the MHC molecule binds a peptide with a neutral amino acid residue at position P9. Here, we have shown that diabetogenic MHC class II molecules bound to a peptide with a neutral P9 residue primarily selected and expanded cells expressing TCRs bearing a negatively charged residue in the first segment of their complementarity determining region 3beta. The crystal structure of one such TCR in complex with I-Ag7 bound to a peptide containing a neutral P9 residue revealed that a network of favorable long-range (greater than 4 A) electrostatic interactions existed among Argalpha76, the neutral P9 residue, and TCR, which supported the substantially increased TCR/peptide-MHC affinity. This network could be modulated or switched to a lower affinity interaction by the introduction of a negative charge at position P9 of the peptide. Our results support the existence of a switch at residue beta57 of the I-Ag7 and HLA-DQ8 class II molecules and potentially link normal thymic TCR selection with abnormal peripheral behavior.

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