Approximately 50 years ago it was found that inbred strains of mice were able to reject tumours and skin grafts from major histocompatibility complex (MHC) identical donors. They proposed that additional transplantation antigens must exist outside the MHC. These were described as minor histocompatibility antigens (mHAgs). Since then, related studies in humans have identified 16 human mHAgs. The aim of this work is to increase the number of known mHAgs by prediction of candidate minor histocompatibility loci by identifying coding single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) where the amino acid variation lies within an MHC-binding peptide and alters the ability of that peptide to bind.
We have developed an algorithm called SiPep which uses peptide sequences derived from the flanking regions of known non-synonymous SNPs, various MHC-binding and proteolytic cleavage evaluation methods and protein expression data to predict mHAgs. We have processed 45094 SNPs using the SiPep algorithm and have stored the results in a database called SNPBinder. The facilities to process submitted proteins through the SiPep algorithm as well as the SNPBinder database are available to the public. A set of peptides that are predicted as possible mHAgs by the SiPep algorithm have been tested using refolding assays and gel filtration and the results are presented in this paper.
The SiPep tools and SNPBinder database are available free of charge via the internet. An HTML interface providing search facilities can be found at the following address: http://www.sipep.org/.