Conformational isomers of a peptide-class II major histocompatibility complex

Scott B. Lovitch, Emil R. Unanue

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


The relative plasticity of peptide binding to class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules permits formation of multiple conformational isomers by the same peptide and MHC molecule; such conformers are specifically recognized by distinct subsets of T cells. Here, we review current knowledge and recent advances in our understanding of peptide-class II MHC conformational isomerism and the mechanisms that generate distinct MHC-peptide conformers. We focus on our studies of two T-cell subsets, type A and B, which recognize distinct conformers of the dominant epitope of hen egg white lysozyme presented by I-Ak. These conformers form via different pathways and in distinct intracellular vesicles: the type A conformer forms in late endosomes upon processing of native protein, while the more flexible type B conformer forms in early endosomes and at the cell surface. In this process, H2-DM acts as a conformational editor, eliminating the type B conformer in late endosomes. Type B T cells constitute a significant component of the naïve T-cell repertoire; furthermore, self-reactive type B T cells escape negative selection and are present in abundance in the periphery. Ongoing studies should elucidate the role of type B T cells in immunity to pathogens and in autoimmune pathology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-313
Number of pages21
JournalImmunological Reviews
StatePublished - Oct 2005


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