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Keywords:

  • epitope;
  • eplet;
  • HLAMatchmaker;
  • human leukocyte antigen-DR, -DQ;
  • human leukocyte antigen antibody

Abstract

Human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class II-specific antibodies increase the risk of transplant failure, and their characterization must consider epitopes rather than antigens. There are two strategies to determine HLA epitope structure. Terasaki’s group has analyzed antibody reactivity patterns with single antigen panels with a computer program based on shared amino acid residues of reactive alleles. HLAMatchmaker is a theoretical algorithm that predicts HLA epitopes on the HLA molecular surface from stereochemical modeling of epitope–paratope interfaces of antigen–antibody complexes. Our epitope repertoire is based on so-called ‘eplets’ representing 3-Å patches of at least one polymorphic residue on the molecular surface. This report describes how 49 of 53 Terasaki’s HLA-DR epitopes correspond to HLAMatchmaker-defined eplets. Most of them are equivalent to single eplets (= 33) or two or more possible eplets (= 10), but six had corresponding eplet pairs. There were 10 cases whereby eplets have permissible residue combinations, and in 5 cases, we found that eplet specificity might be influenced by nearby hidden residues. We could assign corresponding eplets to 17 of 18 Terasaki’s HLA-DQ epitopes. This study demonstrates how the HLAMatchmaker interpretation of amino acid residues shared between antibody-reactive antigens can increase our understanding of the structural basis of HLA epitopes.