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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1990 Dec;87(23):9138-42.

Resolution of hypervariable regions in T-cell receptor beta chains by a modified Wu-Kabat index of amino acid diversity.

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Unité d'Immunogénétique, Insitut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France.


The Wu-Kabat variability coefficient is a well-established descriptor of the susceptibility of an amino acid position to evolutionary replacements. It conveniently highlights stretches of accentuated amino acid variation that, for example, in an antibody molecule account for most of the antigen contacts (complementarity-determining regions). Diverse opinion are held as to why the index yields unclear results when applied instead to the polypeptide sequences of the T-cell antigen receptor. We show that a simple modification enhances the resolving power of the index by increasing the weight on the frequency distribution of the amino acids in the formula. Application of the improved index to T-cell receptor beta chains highlights four unambiguous hypervariable regions, three of which are positioned similar to immunoglobulin complementarity-determining regions along the chain. In a Fab-like three-dimensional model of the T-cell receptor, the four hypervariable regions coincide with the four loops on the surface of the domain and form a contiguous area available for binding.

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