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Mol Immunol. 2014 Jan;57(1):22-7. doi: 10.1016/j.molimm.2013.06.017. Epub 2013 Jul 31.

HLA-B27 and antigen presentation: at the crossroads between immune defense and autoimmunity.

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Istituto Pasteur-Fondazione Cenci Bolognetti, Sapienza, University of Rome, Italy; Department of Biology and Biotechnology "C. Darwin", Sapienza, University of Rome, Italy.


The HLA-B27 is historically studied as a susceptibility factor in spondyloarthropathies and, primarily, in ankylosing spondylitis (AS). Over the recent years however, it has been rediscovered as protective factor against some severe viral infections. This is due to the high capacity of virus-specific, HLA-B27-restricted CD8+ T cells for both intrinsic (i.e. polyfunctionality, high avidity, low sensitivity to Treg cell-mediated suppression) and extrinsic (i.e. rapid and efficient antigen processing and presentation) factors. It is tempting to speculate that these two aspects are not independent and that the association of B27 molecules to autoimmunity is the downside of this superior functional efficacy which, in given genetic backgrounds and environmental conditions, can support a chronic inflammation leading to spondyloarthropathies. Still, the pathogenic role of HLA-B27 molecules in AS is elusive. Here, we focus on the biology of HLA-B27 from the genetics to the biochemistry and to the structural/dynamical properties of B27:peptide complexes as obtained from atomistic molecular dynamics simulation. Overall, the results point at the antigen presentation as the key event in the disease pathogenesis. In particular, an extensive comparison of HLA-B*2705 and B*2709 molecules, that differ in a single amino acid (Asp116 to His116) and are differentially associated with AS, indicates that position 116 is crucial for shaping the entire peptide-presenting groove.


Ankylosing spondylitis; Antigen presentation; Autoimmunity; HLA-B27; Micropolymorphism; Molecular dynamics simulation

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