Structural analysis of the functional sites of class I HLA antigens.
Considerable knowledge of the molecular organization of class I HLA antigens has been attained through extensive structural analysis of these proteins and their genes. Particularly, the nature and location of the polymorphic regions has been established, as well as the basic patterns of structural variability. This work has not unveiled the functionally relevant sites of the HLA molecules but has provided the basis to develop new strategies to do so. The molecular analysis of the determinants recognized by specific antibodies and cytolytic T lymphocytes is being approached through the biochemical characterization of mutants induced in vitro and population variants that are selected by their loss of specific serological or CTL allodeterminants. Other approaches include the immunological analysis of sera raised against synthetic peptides whose structure mimics highly variable segments of class I HLA molecules. These studies have already revealed the participation of several regions in specific allorecognition by antibodies or CTLs and their potential is becoming increasingly evident. A new and possibly powerful approach is currently being used for the dissection of functional sites. It makes use of the structural information derived from sequence analysis and involves expression of cloned HLA genes in transfected mouse or human cells in conjunction with site-directed mutagenesis techniques. Although some difficulties still lie ahead in developing a system suitable for functional assays, the possibility of tailoring HLA mutants and studying the modulation of their recognition determinants by predetermined structural alterations open new pathways to the molecular analysis of HLA function.
Lopez de Castro, JA; Barbosa, JA; Krangel, MS; Biro, PA; Strominger, JL
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