Although T-cell-based adaptive immunity plays a crucial role in protection against infectious pathogens and uncontrolled outgrowth of malignant cells, a large portion of these T cells are also capable of responding to allogeneic HLA molecules, violating the paradigm of self-major histocompatibility complex (MHC) restriction. Recent studies have provided insights into the mechanisms by which these T cells recognize allogeneic targets. The role of antiviral T cells in direct alloreactivity through peptide-dependent molecular mimicry and alternate peptide-MHC docking modes has emerged as major models for the human alloresponse. Here, we review in depth recent advances in this field and discuss how molecular interactions between T cells and HLA molecules drive the activation of these effector cells and its potential implications for alloreactivity in human transplantation.
The authors describe the current understanding of T cell receptor structure/function relationships and their influence on alloimmune recognition.