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Biochem J. 1991 Jul 15;277 ( Pt 2):359-69.

Molecular comparisons of the beta 2-microglobulin-binding site in class I major-histocompatibility-complex alpha-chains and proteins of related sequences.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Chemistry, Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, London, U.K.


beta 2-Microglobulin (beta 2m) binds non-covalently to the alpha 1, alpha 2 and alpha 3 domains of the alpha-chain of Class I major-histocompatibility-complex (MHC) molecules. On the basis of the crystal structures of human leucocyte antigens HLA-A2.1 and HLA-Aw68.1, we have used molecular-graphics analyses to define 44 contact points between 19 alpha-chain residues and 18 beta 2m residues. In 88 other alpha-chain sequences from the HLA-A, HLA-B, HLA-C, HLA-D, HLA-E, HLA-F and HLA-G locus products in man and the H-2, Qa and Tla loci in mouse, 37 contact sites were conserved to 90% or more, and in beta 2m sequences from seven other species 40% of contact sites were totally conserved. Four distinct regions form the contact points between the alpha-chain and beta 2m, one on each of the alpha 1 and alpha 2 domains and two on the alpha 3 domain. We have further studied the alpha-chain sequences of three non-MHC molecules, human CD1 and rat Fc receptor (FcRn), known to bind to beta 2m, and a third molecule, the putative product of the H301 (UL18) gene of human cytomegalovirus (CMV). CMV has been shown to bind beta 2m, and it has been postulated that the H301-gene product, which has sequence similarity to Class I HLA, is the protein responsible. These sequences exhibited much lower residue conservation with the MHC-linked group, although the alpha 3 domain was the most highly conserved, and gaps and insertions were required for optimal alignments with the 90 alpha-chain sequences. Of the 44 beta 2m-alpha-chain contacts defined for Class I HLA, 24 alpha-chain contact sites were conserved in CD1, 25 in FcRn and 17 in the H301-gene product. For CD1 and FcRn, the majority of the conserved beta 2m contacts were found in the alpha 2 domain and the major contact region in the alpha 3 domain. Together with the use of secondary-structure predictions, it was concluded that the binding of beta 2m in CD1 and FcRn was MHC-like at the alpha 3 domain, and probably also at the alpha 2 domain for FcRn, but non-MHC-like for the alpha 1 domain of both molecules and the alpha 2 domain of CD1. In the H301-gene product sequence, only the beta 2m contacts with the main region of the alpha 3 domain were noticeably conserved.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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