Position 97 of HLA-B, a residue implicated in pathogenesis of ankylosing spondylitis, plays a key role in cell surface free heavy chain expression

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Association of position 97 (P97) residue polymorphisms in human leucocyte antigen (HLA)-B, including HLA-B*27, with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) has recently been reported. We studied the effect of P97 variations on cell surface expression of the AS-associated HLA-B*27 and HLA-B*51, and the AS-protective HLA-B*7.


Flow cytometry was used to measure surface expression of HLA-B*27 in C1R/HeLa cells expressing HLA-B*27 (N97) and six mutants at P97 (N97T, N97S, N97V, N97R, N97W and N97D). Transporter associated with antigen processing-deficient T2, tapasin-deficient 220, β2m-deficient HCT15 and endoplasmic reticulum aminopeptidase 1 or β2m-clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/Cas9-knockout HeLa cells were used to provide evidence for specific protein interactions. Surface expression of HLA-B*7/HLA-B*51 P97 mutants was also studied.


Mutation of HLA-B*27 P97 to the AS risk residue threonine increased cell surface free heavy chain (FHC) expression. Protective residues (serine or valine) and non-AS-associated residues (arginine or tryptophan) did not alter FHC expression. The N97D mutation reduced expression of conventional and FHC forms of HLA-B*27. Differences in FHC expression levels between HLA-B*27, HLA-B*27-N97T and HLA-B*27-N97D were dependent on the presence of functional β2m. HLA-B*7, which has an AS-protective serine at P97, expressed lower levels of FHC than HLA-B*27 or HLA-B*51. Introduction of asparagine at P97 of both HLA-B*7 and HLA-B*51 increased FHC expression.


The nature of P97 residue affects surface expression of HLA-B*27, B*7 and B*51, with AS-associated residues giving rise to higher FHC expression levels. The association of P97 amino acid polymorphisms with AS could be, at least in part, explained by its effect on HLA-B*27 FHC cell surface expression.

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