Peptide-induced HLA-E expression in human PBMCs is dependent on peptide sequence and the HLA-E genotype

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Abstract

Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA)-E is a low-polymorphic non-classical HLA class I molecule which plays a crucial role in immune surveillance by presentation of peptides to T and natural killer (NK) cells. HLA-E polymorphism is related to HLA-E surface expression and is associated with patient outcome after stem cell transplantation. We aim to investigate the regulation of HLA-E expression level in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) of healthy individuals homozygous for HLA-E*01:01 or HLA-E*01:03, by using a panel of HLA-E binding peptides derived from CMV, Hsp60 and HLA class I. Basal and peptide-induced HLA-E surface expression levels were higher in PBMC from HLA-E*01:03 homozygous subjects as compared to PBMC from HLA-E*01:01 homozygous subjects. HLA-E mRNA levels were comparable between the two genotypes and remained constant after peptide stimulation. HLA-E surface expression seemed to be not only dependent on the HLA-E genotype, but also on the sequence of the peptide as evidenced by the profound difference in HLA-E upregulation with the Hsp60 and the B7 peptide. Our results showed that peptide-induced HLA-E expression is regulated at the posttranscriptional level as extracellular peptide stimulation did not influence RNA expression. This study provides new insights in the mechanism by which HLA-E expression is regulated and underlines a new role for extracellular peptides in inducing HLA-E translation, which may represent a defense mechanism against lytic viral infections and necrosis.

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