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Eur J Immunol. 2009 Oct;39(10):2682-94. doi: 10.1002/eji.200939364.

The outermost N-terminal region of tapasin facilitates folding of major histocompatibility complex class I.

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Department of Experimental Immunology, Institute of International Health, Immunology and Microbiology, University of Copenhagen, Panum Institute, DK-2200 Copenhagen, Denmark.


Tapasin (Tpn) is an ER chaperone that is uniquely dedicated to MHC-I biosynthesis. It binds MHC-I molecules, integrates them into peptide-loading complexes, and exerts quality control of the bound peptides; only when an "optimal peptide" is bound will the MHC-I be released and exported to the cell surface for presentation to T cells. The exact mechanisms of Tpn quality control and the criteria for being an optimal peptide are still unknown. Here, we have generated a recombinant fragment of human Tpn, Tpn(1-87) (representing the 87 N-terminal and ER-luminal amino acids of the mature Tpn protein). Using a biochemical peptide-MHC-I-binding assay, recombinant Tpn(1-87) was found to specifically facilitate peptide-dependent folding of HLA-A*0201. Furthermore, we used Tpn(1-87) to generate a monoclonal antibody, alphaTpn(1-87)/80, specific for natural human Tpn and capable of cellular staining of ER localized Tpn. Using overlapping peptides, the epitope of alphaTpn(1-87)/80 was located to Tpn(40-44), which maps to a surface-exposed loop on the Tpn structure. Together, these results demonstrate that the N-terminal region of Tpn can be recombinantly expressed and adopt a structure, which at least partially resembles that of WT Tpn, and that this region of Tpn features chaperone activity facilitating peptide binding of MHC-I.

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