Conserved T-cell receptor class II major histocompatibility complex contact detected in a T-lymphocyte population

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T-cell receptor (TCR) interacts with an antigenic peptide deeply buried in the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecule. How class II MHC is contacted by TCR during antigen recognition remains largely elusive. Here we used a panel of I-Ek mutants to identify two I-Ek residues that were frequently contacted by TCR among a large pool of T cells specific for the same antigen. The restricted TCR interaction with I-Ek was independent of the antigen peptides. We also identified a dominant heteroclitic residue on I-Ek, β81H, in which mutation led to increased recognition of antigens in individual T-cell clones. Moreover, both the conserved TCR-I-Ek interaction and the heteroclitic TCR-I-Ek recognition were detected in T lymphocytes freshly isolated from mice primed with the specific antigens. The identical TCR-I-Ek interaction in a heterogeneous T-cell population suggested the dominance of invariant TCR-class II MHC interaction.

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