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J Immunol. 1998 Oct 1;161(7):3527-35.

Structural basis of specificity and degeneracy of T cell recognition: pluriallelic restriction of T cell responses to a peptide antigen involves both specific and promiscuous interactions between the T cell receptor, peptide, and HLA-DR.

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  • 1Virginia Mason Research Center, Seattle, WA 98101-2744, USA.


TCR engagement of peptide-MHC class II ligands involves specific contacts between the TCR and residues on both the MHC and peptide molecules. We have used molecular modeling and assays of peptide binding and T cell function to characterize these interactions for a CD4+ Th1 cell clone, ESL4.34, which recognizes a peptide epitope of the herpes simplex type 2 virus virion protein, VP16 393-405, in the context of several HLA-DR alleles. This clone responded to VP16 393-405 in proliferation and cytotoxicity assays when presented by DRB1*0402, DRB1*1102, and DRB1*1301, which share a common amino acid sequence, ILEDE, at residues 67-71 in the alpha-helical portion of the DRbeta polypeptide, but not when presented by other DR4, DR11, and DR13 alleles that are negative for this sequence. Using a panel of APCs expressing DR4 molecules that were mutagenized in vitro at individual residues within this shared epitope and using peptide analogues with single amino acid substitutions of predicted MHC and TCR contact residues, a unit of recognition was identified dependent on DRbeta residues 67-71 and relative position 4 (P4) of the VP16 393-405 peptide. The interactions of this portion of the peptide-DR ligand with the ESL4.34 TCR support a structural model for MHC-biased recognition in some Ag-specific and alloreactive T cell responses and suggest a possible mechanism for autoreactive T cell selection in rheumatoid arthritis.

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