Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I variants H-2Kb and H-2Kbm8 differ primarily in the B pocket of the peptide-binding groove, which serves to sequester the P2 secondary anchor residue. This polymorphism determines resistance to lethal herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) infection by modulating T cell responses to the immunodominant glycoprotein B498-505 epitope, HSV8. We studied the molecular basis of these effects and confirmed that T cell receptors raised against Kb-HSV8 cannot recognize H-2Kbm8-HSV8. However, substitution of Ser P2 to GluP2 (peptide H2E) reversed T cell receptor (TCR) recognition; H-2Kbm8-H2E was recognized whereas H-2Kb-H2E was not. Insight into the structural basis of this discrimination was obtained by determining the crystal structures of all four MHC class I molecules in complex with bound peptide (pMHCs). Surprisingly, we find no concerted pMHC surface differences that can explain the differential TCR recognition. However, a correlation is apparent between the recognition data and the underlying peptide-binding groove chemistry of the B pocket, revealing that secondary anchor residues can profoundly affect TCR engagement through mechanisms distinct from the alteration of the resting state conformation of the pMHC surface.
- Antigen presentation
- Herpes simplex virus 1
- Major histocompatibility complex
- T cells