Class I and class II molecules display a distinctive structural architecture, which contains specialized functional domains responsible for the unique genetic and immunologic properties of the HLA complex. The principal known function of both class I and class II HLA molecules is to bind antigenic peptides in order to present antigen to an appropriate T cell. The ability of a particular peptide to satisfactorily bind to an individual HLA molecule is a direct function of the molecular fit between the amino acid residues on the peptide with respect to the amino acid residues of the HLA molecule. The bound peptide forms a tertiary structure called the MHC-peptide complex, which communicates with T lymphocytes through binding to the TCR molecule. The first site of TCR-MHC-peptide interaction in the life of a T cell occurs in the thymus, where self-peptides are presented to developing thymocytes by MHC molecules expressed on thymic epithelium and hematopoietically derived antigen-presenting cells, which are primarily responsible for positive and negative selection, respectively (Chap. 314). Thus, the population of MHC–T cell complexes expressed in the thymus shapes the TCR repertoire. Mature T cells encounter MHC molecules in the periphery both in the maintenance of tolerance (Chap. 318) and in the initiation of immune responses. The MHC-peptide-TCR interaction is the central event in the initiation of most antigen-specific immune responses, since it is the structural determinant of the specificity. For potentially immunogenetic peptides, the ability of a given peptide to be generated and bound by an HLA molecule is a primary feature of whether or not an immune response to that peptide can be generated, and the repertoire of peptides that a particular individual's HLA molecules can bind exerts a major influence over the specificity of that individual's immune response.
When a TCR molecule binds to an HLA-peptide complex, it forms intermolecular contacts with both the antigenic peptide and with the HLA molecule itself. The outcome of this recognition event depends on the density and duration of the binding interaction, accounting for a dual specificity requirement for activation of the T cell. That is, the TCR must be specific both for the antigenic peptide and for the HLA molecule. The polymorphic nature of the presenting molecules, and the influence that this exerts on the peptide repertoire of each molecule, results in the phenomenon of MHC restriction of the T cell specificity for a given peptide. The binding of CD8 or CD4 molecules to the class I or class II molecule, respectively, also contributes to the interaction between T cell and the HLA-peptide complex, by providing for the selective activation of the appropriate T cell.
(Fig. 315-2B) As noted above, MHC class I molecules provide a cell-surface display of peptides derived from intracellular proteins, and they also provide the signal for self-recognition by NK cells. Surface-expressed class I molecules consist of an MHC-encoded 44-kD glycoprotein heavy chain, a non-MHC-encoded 12-kD light chain β2-microglobulin, and an antigenic peptide, typically 8–11 amino acids in length and derived from intracellularly produced protein. The heavy chain displays a prominent peptide-binding groove. In HLA-A and -B molecules, the groove is ∼3 nm in length by 1.2 nm in maximum width (30 Å × 12 Å), whereas it is apparently somewhat wider in HLA-C. Antigenic peptides are noncovalently bound in an extended conformation within the peptide-binding groove, with both N- and C-terminal ends anchored in pockets within the groove (A and F pockets, respectively) and, in many cases, with a prominent kink, or arch, approximately one-third of the way from the N-terminus that elevates the peptide main chain off the floor of the groove.
A remarkable property of peptide binding by MHC molecules is the ability to form highly stable complexes with a wide array of peptide sequences. This is accomplished by a combination of peptide sequence–independent and peptide sequence–dependent bonding. The former consists of hydrogen bond and van der Waals interactions between conserved residues in the peptide-binding groove and charged or polar atoms along the peptide backbone. The latter is dependent upon the six side pockets that are formed by the irregular surface produced by protrusion of amino acid side chains from within the binding groove. The side chains lining the pockets interact with some of the peptide side chains. The sequence polymorphism among different class I alleles and isotypes predominantly affects the residues that line these pockets, and the interactions of these residues with peptide residues constitute the sequence-dependent bonding that confers a particular sequence "motif" on the range of peptides that can bind any given MHC molecule.
(Fig. 315-3A) The biosynthesis of the classic MHC class I molecules reflects their role in presenting endogenous peptides. The heavy chain is cotranslationally inserted into the membrane of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), where it becomes glycosylated and associates sequentially with the chaperone proteins calnexin and ERp57. It then forms a complex with β2-microglobulin, and this complex associates with the chaperone calreticulin and the MHC-encoded molecule tapasin, which physically links the class I complex to TAP, the MHC-encoded transporter associated with antigen processing. Meanwhile, peptides generated within the cytosol from intracellular proteins by the multisubunit, multicatalytic proteasome complex are actively transported into the ER by TAP, where they are trimmed by a peptidase known as ERAAP (ER aminopeptidase associated with antigen processing). At this point, peptides with appropriate sequence complementarity bind specific class I molecules to form complete, folded heavy chain–β2-microglobulin–peptide trimer complexes. These are transported rapidly from the ER, through the cis- and trans-Golgi where the N-linked oligosaccharide is further processed, and thence to the cell surface.
Biosynthesis of class I (A) and class II (B) molecules. A. Nascent heavy chain (HC) becomes associated with β2-microglobulin (β2m) and peptide through interactions with a series of chaperones. Peptides generated by the proteasome are transported into the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) by TAP. Peptides undergo N-terminal trimming in the ER and become associated with chaperones, including gp96 and PDI. Once peptide binds to HC-β2m, the HC-β2m-peptide trimeric complex exits the ER and is transported by the secretory pathway to the cell surface. In the Golgi, the N-linked oligosaccharide undergoes maturation, with addition of sialic acid residues. Molecules are not necessarily drawn to scale. B. Pathway of HLA class II molecule assembly and antigen processing. After transport through the Golgi and post-Golgi compartment, the class II–invariant chain complex moves to an acidic endosome, where the invariant chain is proteolytically cleaved into fragments and displaced by antigenic peptides, facilitated by interactions with the DMA-DMB chaperone protein. This class II molecule–peptide complex is then transported to the cell surface.
Most of the peptides transported by TAP are produced in the cytosol by proteolytic cleavage of intracellular proteins by the multisubunit, multicatalytic proteasome, and inhibitors of the proteasome dramatically reduce expression of class I–presented antigenic peptides. A thiol-dependent oxidoreductase Erp57, which mediates disulfide bond rearrangements, also appears to play an important role in folding the class I–peptide complex into a stable multicomponent molecule. The MHC-encoded proteasome subunits LMP2 and LMP7 may influence the spectrum of peptides produced but are not essential for proteasome function.
Peptide Antigen Presentation
On any given cell, a class I molecule occurs in 100,000–200,000 copies and binds several hundred to several thousand distinct peptide species. The vast majority of these peptides are self-peptides to which the host immune system is tolerant by one or more of the mechanisms that maintain tolerance [e.g., clonal deletion in the thymus or clonal anergy or clonal ignorance in the periphery (Chaps. 314 and 318)]. However, class I molecules bearing foreign peptides expressed in a permissive immunologic context activate CD8 T cells, which, if naïve, will then differentiate into cytolytic T lymphocytes (CTLs). These T cells and their progeny, through their αβ TCRs, are then capable of Fas/CD95- and/or perforin-mediated cytotoxicity and/or cytokine secretion (Chap. 314) upon further encounter with the class I–peptide combination that originally activated it, and also with other combinations of class I molecule plus peptide that present a similar immunochemical stimulus to the TCR. As alluded to above, this phenomenon by which T cells recognize foreign antigens in the context of specific MHCalleles is termed MHC restriction, and the specific MHC molecule is termed the restriction element. The most common source of foreign peptides presented by class I molecules is viral infection, in the course of which peptides from viral proteins enter the class I pathway. The generation of a strong CTL response that destroys virally infected cells represents an important antigen-specific defense against many viral infections (Chap. 314). In the case of some viral infections—hepatitis B, for example—CTL-induced target cell apoptosis is thought to be a more important mechanism of tissue damage than any direct cytopathic effect of the virus itself. The importance of the class I pathway in the defense against viral infection is underscored by the identification of a number of viral products that interfere with the normal class I biosynthetic pathway and thus block the immunogenetic expression of viral antigens.
Other examples of intracellularly generated peptides that can be presented by class I molecules in an immunogenic manner include peptides derived from nonviral intracellular infectious agents (e.g., Listeria, Plasmodium), tumor antigens, minor histocompatibility antigens, and certain autoantigens. There are also situations in which cell surface–expressed class I molecules are thought to acquire and present exogenously derived peptides.
HLA Class I Receptors and NK Cell Recognition
(Chap. 314) NK cells, which play an important role in innate immune responses, are activated to cytotoxicity and cytokine secretion by contact with cells that lack MHC class I expression, and NK cell activation is inhibited by cells that express MHC class I. In humans, the recognition of class I molecules by NK cells is carried out by three classes of receptor families, the killer cell–inhibitory cell receptor (KIR) family, the leukocyte Ig-like receptor (LIR) family, and the CD94/NKG2 family. The KIR family, also called CD158, is encoded on chromosome 19q13.4. KIR gene nomenclature is based on the number of domains (2D or 3D) and the presence of long (L) or short (S) cytoplasmic domains. The KIR2DL1 and S1 molecules primarily recognize alleles of HLA-C, which possess a lysine at position 80 (HLA-Cw2, -4, -5 and -6), while the KIR2DL2/S2 and KIR2DL3/S3 families primarily recognize alleles of HLA-C with asparagine at this position (HLA-Cw1,-3, -7 and -8). The KIR3D L1 and S1 molecules predominantly recognize HLA-B alleles that fall into the HLA-Bw4 class determined by residues 77–83 in the α1 domain of the heavy chain, while the KIR3DL2 molecule is an inhibitory receptor for HLA-A*03. One of the KIR products, KIR2DL4, is known to be an activating receptor for HLA-G. The most common KIR haplotype in whites contains one activating KIR and six inhibitory KIR genes, although there is a great deal of diversity in the population, with >100 different combinations. It appears that most individuals have at least one inhibitory KIR for a self-HLA class I molecule, providing a structural basis for NK cell target specificity, which helps prevent NK cells from attacking normal cells. The importance of KIR-HLA interactions to many immune responses is illustrated by studies associating KIR3DL1 or S1 with multiple sclerosis (Chapter 380), an autoimmune disease, but also with partial protection against HIV (Chap. 189); in both cases consistent with a role for HLA-KIR mediated NK activation.
The LIR gene family (CD85, also called ILT) is encoded centromeric of the KIR locus on 19q13.4, and it encodes a variety of inhibitory immunoglobulin-like receptors expressed on many lymphocyte and other hematopoietic lineages. Interaction of LIR-1 (ILT2) with NK or T cells inhibits activation and cytotoxicity, mediated by many different HLA class I molecules, including HLA-G. HLA-F also appears to interact with LIR molecules, although the functional context for this is not understood.
The third family of NK receptors for HLA is encoded in the NK complex on chromosome 12p12.3-13.1 and consists of CD94 and five NKG2 genes, A/B, C, E/H, D, and F. These molecules are C-type (calcium-binding) lectins, and most function as disulfide-bonded heterodimers between CD94 and one of the NKG2 glycoproteins. The principal ligand of CD94/NKG2A receptors is the HLA-E molecule, complexed to a peptide derived from the signal sequence of classic HLA class I molecules and HLA-G. Thus, analogous to the way in which KIR receptors recognize HLA-C, the NKG2 receptor monitors self–class I expression, albeit indirectly through peptide recognition in the context of HLA-E. NKG2C, -E, and -H appear to have similar specificities but act as activating receptors. NKG2D is expressed as a homodimer and functions as an activating receptor expressed on NK cells, γδ TCR T cells, and activated CD8 T cells. When complexed with an adaptor called DAP10, NKG2D recognizes MIC-A and MIC-B molecules and activates the cytolytic response. NKG2D also binds a class of molecules known as ULBP, structurally related to class I molecules but not encoded in the MHC. The function of NK cells in immune responses is discussed in Chap. 314.
(Fig. 315-2C) A specialized functional architecture similar to that of the class I molecules can be seen in the example of a class II molecule depicted in Fig. 315-2C, with an antigen-binding cleft arrayed above a supporting scaffold that extends the cleft toward the external cellular environment. However, in contrast to the HLA class I molecular structure, β2-microglobulin is not associated with class II molecules. Rather, the class II molecule is a heterodimer, composed of a 29-kD α chain and a 34-kD β chain. The amino-terminal domains of each chain form the antigen-binding elements that, like the class I molecule, cradle a bound peptide in a groove bounded by extended α-helical loops, one encoded by the A (α chain) gene and one by the B (β chain) gene. Like the class I groove, the class II antigen-binding groove is punctuated by pockets that contact the side chains of amino acid residues of the bound peptide, but unlike the class I groove, it is open at both ends. Therefore, peptides bound by class II molecules vary greatly in length, since both the N- and C-terminal ends of the peptides can extend through the open ends of this groove. Approximately 11 amino acids within the bound peptide form intimate contacts with the class II molecule itself, with backbone hydrogen bonds and specific side chain interactions combining to provide, respectively, stability and specificity to the binding (Fig. 315-4).
Specific intermolecular interactions determine peptide binding to MHC class II molecules. A short peptide sequence derived from alpha-gliadin (A.) is accommodated within the MHC class II binding groove by specific interactions between peptide side chains (the P1–P9 residues illustrated in (B.) and corresponding pockets in the MHC class II structure. The latter are determined by the genetic polymorphisms of the MHC gene, in this case encoding an HLA-DQ2 molecule (C.). This shows the extensive hydrogen bond and salt bridge network, which tightly constrains the pMHC complex and presents the complex of antigen and restriction element for CD4 T cell recognition. (FromKim C et al: Structural basis for HLA-DQ2-mediated presentation of gluten epitopes in celiac disease. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 101:4175, 2004.)
The genetic polymorphisms that distinguish different class II genes correspond to changes in the amino acid composition of the class II molecule, and these variable sites are clustered predominantly around the pocket structures within the antigen-binding groove. As with class I, this is a critically important feature of the class II molecule, which explains how genetically different individuals have functionally different HLA molecules.
Biosynthesis and Function of Class II Molecules
(Fig. 315-3B) The intracellular assembly of class II molecules occurs within a specialized compartmentalized pathway that differs dramatically from the class I pathway described above. As illustrated in Fig. 315-3B, the class II molecule assembles in the ER in association with a chaperone molecule, known as the invariant chain. The invariant chain performs at least two roles. First, it binds to the class II molecule and blocks the peptide-binding groove, thus preventing antigenic peptides from binding. This role of the invariant chain appears to account for one of the important differences between class I and class II MHC pathways, since it can explain why class I molecules present endogenous peptides from proteins newly synthesized in the ER but class II molecules generally do not. Second, the invariant chain contains molecular localization signals that direct the class II molecule to traffic into post-Golgi compartments known as endosomes, which develop into specialized acidic compartments where proteases cleave the invariant chain, and antigenic peptides can now occupy the class II groove. The specificity and tissue distribution of these proteases appear to be an important way in which the immune system regulates access to the peptide-binding groove and T cells become exposed to specific self-antigens. Differences in protease expression in the thymus and in the periphery may in part determine which specific peptide sequences comprise the peripheral repertoire for T cell recognition. It is at this stage in the intracellular pathway, after cleavage of the invariant chain, that the MHC-encoded DM molecule catalytically facilitates the exchange of peptides within the class II groove to help optimize the specificity and stability of the MHC-peptide complex.
Once this MHC-peptide complex is deposited in the outer cell membrane it becomes the target for T cell recognition via a specific TCR expressed on lymphocytes. Because the endosome environment contains internalized proteins retrieved from the extracellular environment, the class II–peptide complex often contains bound antigens that were originally derived from extracellular proteins. In this way, the class II peptide–loading pathway provides a mechanism for immune surveillance of the extracellular space. This appears to be an important feature that permits the class II molecule to bind foreign peptides, distinct from the endogenous pathway of class I–mediated presentation.
Role of HLA in Transplantation
The development of modern clinical transplantation in the decades since the 1950s provided a major impetus for elucidation of the HLA system, as allograft survival is highest when donor and recipient are HLA-identical. Although many molecular events participate in transplantation rejection, allogeneic differences at class I and class II loci play a major role. Class I molecules can promote T cell responses in several different ways. In the cases of allografts in which the host and donor are mismatched at one or more class I loci, host T cells can be activated by classic direct alloreactivity, in which the antigen receptors on the host T cells react with the foreign class I molecule expressed on the allograft. In this situation, the response of any given TCR may be dominated by the allogeneic MHC molecule, the peptide bound to it, or some combination of the two. Another type of host antigraft T cell response involves the uptake and processing of donor MHC antigens by host antigen-presenting cells and the subsequent presentation of the resulting peptides by host MHC molecules. This mechanism is termed indirect alloreactivity.
In the case of class I molecules on allografts that are shared by the host and the donor, a host T cell response may still be triggered because of peptides that are presented by the class I molecules of the graft but not of the host. The most common basis for the existence of these endogenous antigen peptides, called minor histocompatibility antigens, is a genetic difference between donor and host at a non-MHC locus encoding the structural gene for the protein from which the peptide is derived. These loci are termed minor histocompatibility loci, and nonidentical individuals typically differ at many such loci. CD4 T cells react to analogous class II variation, both direct and indirect, and class II differences alone are sufficient to drive allograft rejection.
Association of HLA Alleles with Susceptibility to Disease
It has long been postulated that infectious agents provide the driving force for the allelic diversification seen in the HLA system. An important corollary of this hypothesis is that resistance to specific pathogens may differ between individuals, based on HLA genotype. Observations of specific HLA genes associated with resistance to malaria or dengue fever, persistence of hepatitis B, and to disease progression in HIV infection are consistent with this model. For example, failure to clear persistent hepatitis B or C viral infection may reflect the inability of particular HLA molecules to present viral antigens effectively to T cells. Similarly, both protective and susceptible HLA allelic associations have been described for human papilloma virus–associated cervical neoplasia, implicating the MHC as an influence in mediating viral clearance in this form of cancer.
Pathogen diversity is probably also the major selective pressure favoring HLA heterozygosity. The extraordinary scope of HLA allelic diversity increases the likelihood that most new pathogens will be recognized by some HLA molecules, helping to ensure immune fitness to the host. However, another consequence of diversification is that some alleles may become capable of recognition of "innocent bystander" molecules, including drugs, environmental molecules, and tissue-derived self-antigens. In a few instances, single HLA alleles display a strong selectivity for binding of a particular agent that accounts for a genetically determined response: hypersensitivity to abacavir, an antiretroviral therapeutic, is directly linked to binding of abacavir in the antigen-binding pockets of HLA-B*5701, and chronic beryllium toxicity is linked to binding of beryllium by HLA-DP molecules with a specific glutamic acid polymorphic residue on the class II beta chain. Even in the case of more complex diseases, particular HLA alleles are strongly associated with certain inappropriate immune-mediated disease states, particularly for some common autoimmune disorders (Chap. 318). By comparing allele frequencies in patients with any particular disease and in control populations, >100 such associations have been identified, some of which are listed in Table 315-1. The strength of genetic association is reflected in the term relative risk, which is a statistical odds ratio representing the risk of disease for an individual carrying a particular genetic marker compared with the risk for individuals in that population without that marker. The nomenclature shown in Table 315-1 reflects both the HLA serotype (e.g., DR3, DR4) and the HLA genotype (e.g., DRB1*0301, DRB1*0401). It very likely the class I and class II alleles themselves are the true susceptibility alleles for most of these associations. However, because of the extremely strong linkage disequilibrium between the DR and DQ loci, in some cases it has been difficult to determine the specific locus or combination of class II loci involved. In some cases, the susceptibility gene may be one of the HLA-linked genes located near the class I or class II region, but not the HLA gene itself, and in other cases the susceptibility gene may be a non-HLA gene such as TNF-α, which is nearby. Indeed, since linkage disequilibrium of some haplotypes extends across large segments of the MHC region, it is quite possible that combinations of genes may account for the particular associations of HLA haplotypes with disease. For example, on some haplotypes associated with rheumatoid arthritis, both HLA-DRB1 alleles and a particular polymorphism associated with the TNF locus may be contributory to disease risk. Other candidates for similar epistatic effects include the IKBL gene and the MICA locus, potentially in combination with classic HLA class II risk alleles.
Table 315–1. Significant HLA Class I and Class II Associations with Disease |Favorite Table|Download (.pdf)
Table 315–1. Significant HLA Class I and Class II Associations with Disease
|Marker||Gene||Strength of Association|
|Ankylosing spondylitis||B27||B*2702, −04, −05||++++|
|Acute anterior uveitis||B27||+++|
|Reactive arthritis (Yersinia, Salmonella, Shigella, Chlamydia)||B27||+++|
|Juvenile arthritis, pauciarticular|
|Rheumatoid arthritis||DR4||DRB1*0401, −04, −05||+++|
|Systemic lupus erythematosus|
|Autoimmune Gut and Skin|
|Gluten-sensitive enteropathy (celiac disease)||DQ2||DQA1*0501||+++|
|Chronic active hepatitis||DR3||++|
|Bullous pemphigoid variant||DQ7||DQB1*0301||+|
|Type 1 diabetes mellitus||DQ8 ||DQB1*0302 ||+++ |
|DR4 ||DRB1*0401, −04 |
|Myasthenia gravis||B8 ||+ |
|Multiple sclerosis||DR2||DRB1*1501 ||++|
|Congenital adrenal hyperplasia||B47||21·OH (Cyp21B)||+++|
|Goodpasture's syndrome (anti-GBM)||DR2||++|
As might be predicted from the known function of the class I and class II gene products, almost all of the diseases associated with specific HLAalleles have an immunologic component to their pathogenesis. The recent development of soluble HLA-peptide recombinant molecules as biological probes of T cell function, often in multivalent complexes referred to as "MHC tetramers," represents an opportunity to use HLA genetic associations to develop biomarkers for detection of early disease progression. However, it should be stressed that even the strong HLA associations with disease (those associations with relative risk of ≥10) implicate normal, rather than defective, alleles. Most individuals who carry these susceptibility genes do not express the associated disease; in this way, the particular HLA gene is permissive for disease but requires other environmental (e.g., the presence of specific antigens) or genetic factors for full penetrance. In each case studied, even in diseases with very strong HLA associations, the concordance of disease in monozygotic twins is higher than in HLA-identical dizygotic twins or other sibling pairs, indicating that non-HLA genes contribute to susceptibility and can significantly modify the risk attributable to HLA.
Another group of diseases is genetically linked to HLA, not because of the immunologic function of HLA alleles but rather because they are caused by autosomal dominant or recessive abnormal alleles at loci that happen to reside in or near the HLA region. Examples of these are 21-hydroxylase deficiency (Chap. 342), hemochromatosis (Chap. 357), and spinocerebellar ataxia (Chap. 374).
Class I Associations with Disease
Although the associations of human disease with particular HLAalleles or haplotypes predominantly involve the class II region, there are also several prominent disease associations with class I alleles. These include the association of Behçet's disease (Chap. 327) with HLA-B51, psoriasis vulgaris (Chap. 52) with HLA-Cw6, and, most notably, the spondyloarthritides (Chap. 325) with HLA-B27. Twenty-five HLA-B locus alleles, designated HLA-B*2701–B*2725, encode the family of B27 class I molecules. All of the subtypes share a common B pocket in the peptide-binding groove—a deep, negatively charged pocket that shows a strong preference for binding the arginine side chain. In addition, B27 is among the most negatively charged of HLA class I heavy chains, and the overall preference is for positively charged peptides. HLA-B*2705 is the predominant subtype in whites and most other non-Asian populations, and this subtype is very highly associated with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) (Chap. 325), both in its idiopathic form and in association with chronic inflammatory bowel disease or psoriasis vulgaris. It is also associated with reactive arthritis (ReA) (Chap. 325), with other idiopathic forms of peripheral arthritis (undifferentiated spondyloarthropathy), and with recurrent acute anterior uveitis. B27 is found in 50–90% of individuals with these conditions, compared with a prevalence of ∼7% in North American whites.
It can be concluded that the B27 molecule itself is involved in disease pathogenesis, based on strong evidence from clinical epidemiology and on the occurrence of a spondyloarthropathy-like disease in HLA-B27 transgenic rats. The association of B27 with these diseases may derive from the specificity of a particular peptide or family of peptides bound to B27 or through another mechanism that is independent of the peptide specificity of B27. In particular, HLA-B27 has been shown to form heavy chain homodimers, utilizing the cysteine residue at position 67 of the B57 α chain, in the absence of β2-microglobulin. These homodimers are expressed on the surface of lymphocytes and monocytes from patients with AS, and receptors including KIR3DL1, KIR3DL2, and ILT4 are capable of binding to them, promoting the activation and survival of cells expressing these receptors. Alternatively, this dimerization "misfolding" of B27 may initiate an intracellular stress signalling response, called the unfolded protein response (UPR), capable of modulating immune cell function. Whether these interactions contribute to disease susceptibility or pathogenesis is currently unknown.
Class II Disease Associations
As can be seen in Table 315-1, the majority of associations of HLA and disease are with class II alleles. Several diseases have complex HLA genetic associations.
In the case of celiac disease (Chap. 294), it is probable that the HLA-DQ genes are the primary basis for the disease association. HLA-DQ genes present on both the celiac-associated DR3 and DR7 haplotypes include the DQB1*0201 gene, and further detailed studies have documented a specific class II αβ dimer encoded by the DQA1*0501 and DQB1*0201 genes, which appears to account for most of the HLA genetic contribution to celiac disease susceptibility. This specific HLA association with celiac disease may have a straightforward explanation: peptides derived from the wheat gluten component gliaden are bound to the molecule encoded by DQA1*0501 and DQB1*0201 and presented to T cells. Gliaden-derived peptides that are implicated in this immune activation bind the DQ class II dimer best when the peptide contains a glutamine to glutamic acid substitution. It has been proposed that tissue transglutaminase, an enzyme present at increased levels in the intestinal cells of celiac patients, converts glutamine to glutamic acid in gliadin, creating peptides that are capable of being bound by the DQ2 molecule and presented to T cells.
In the case of pemphigus vulgaris (Chap. 54), there are two HLAgenes associated with disease, DRB1*0402 and DQB1*0503. Peptides derived from desmoglien3, an epidermal autoantigen, bind to the DRB1*0402- and DQB1*0503-encoded HLA molecules, and this combination of specific peptide binding and disease-associated class II molecule is sufficient to stimulate desmoglien-specific T cells. A bullous pemphigoid clinical variant, not involving desmoglien recognition, has been found to be associated with HLA-DQB1*0301.
Pauciarticular juvenile arthritis (Chap. 321) is an autoimmune disease associated with genes at the DRB1 locus and also with genes at the DPB1 locus. Patients with both DPB1*0201 and a DRB1 susceptibility allele (usually DRB1*08 or -*05) have a higher relative risk than expected from the additive effect of those genes alone. In juvenile patients with rheumatoid factor–positive polyarticular disease, heterozygotes carrying both DRB1*0401 and -*0404 have a relative risk > 100, reflecting an apparent synergy in individuals inheriting both of these susceptibility genes.
Type 1 (autoimmune) diabetes mellitus (Chap. 344) is associated with MHCgenes on more than one haplotype. The presence of both the DR3 and DR4 haplotypes in one individual confers a twentyfold increased risk for type 1 diabetes; the strongest single association is with DQB1*0302, and all haplotypes that carry a DQB1*0302 gene are associated with type 1 diabetes, whereas related haplotypes that carry a different DQB1 gene are not. However, the relative risk associated with inheritance of this gene can be modified, depending on other HLA genes present either on the same or a second haplotype. For example, the presence of a DR2-positive haplotype containing a DQB1*0602 gene is associated with decreased risk. This gene, DQB1*0602, is considered "protective" for type 1 diabetes. Even some DRB1 genes that can occur on the same haplotype as DQB1*0302 may modulate risk, so that individuals with the DR4 haplotype that contains DRB1*0403 are less susceptible to type 1 diabetes than individuals with other DR4-DQB1*0302 haplotypes.
Although the presence of a DR3 haplotype in combination with the DR4-DQB1*0302 haplotype is a very high-risk combination for diabetes susceptibility, the specific gene on the DR3 haplotype that is responsible for this synergy is not yet identified. There are some characteristic structural features of the diabetes-associated DQ molecule encoded by DQB1*0302, particularly the capability for binding peptides that have negatively charged amino acids near their C-termini. This may indicate a role for specific antigenic peptides or T cell interactions in the immune response to islet-associated proteins.
HLA and Rheumatoid Arthritis
The HLAgenes associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) (Chap. 321) encode a distinctive sequence of amino acids from codons 67–74 of the DRβ molecule: RA-associated class II molecules carry the sequence LeuLeuGluGlnArgArgAlaAla or LeuLeuGluGlnLysArgAlaAla in this region, while non-RA- associated genes carry one or more differences in this region. These residues form a portion of the molecule that lies in the middle of the α-helical portion of the DRB1-encoded class II molecule, termed the shared epitope.
The highest risk for susceptibility to RA comes in individuals who carry both a DRB1*0401 and DRB1*0404 gene. These DR4-positive RA-associated alleles are most frequent among patients with more severe, erosive disease. Several mechanisms have been proposed that link the shared epitope to immune reactivity in RA. This portion of the class II molecule may allow preferential binding of an arthritogenic peptide, it may favor the expansion of a type of self-reactive T lymphocyte, or it may itself form part of the pMHC ligand recognized by TCR that initiates synovial tissue recognition.
Molecular Mechanisms for HLA-Disease Associations
As noted above, HLA molecules play a key role in the selection and establishment of the antigen-specific T cell repertoire and a major role in the subsequent activation of those T cells during the initiation of an immune response. Precise genetic polymorphisms characteristic of individual alleles dictate the specificity of these interactions and thereby instruct and guide antigen-specific immune events. These same genetically determined pathways are therefore implicated in disease pathogenesis when specific HLA genes are responsible for autoimmune disease susceptibility.
The fate of developing T cells within the thymus is determined by the affinity of interaction between T cell receptor and HLA molecules bearing self-peptides, and thus the particular HLA types of each individual control the precise specificity of the T cell repertoire (Chap. 314). The primary basis for HLA-associated disease susceptibility may well lie within this thymic maturation pathway. The positive selection of potentially autoreactive T cells, based on the presence of specific HLA susceptibility genes, may establish the threshold for disease risk in a particular individual.
At the time of onset of a subsequent immune response, the primary role of the HLA molecule is to bind peptide and present it to antigen-specific T cells. The HLA complex can therefore be viewed as encoding genetic determinants of precise immunologic activation events. Antigenic peptides that bind particular HLA molecules are capable of stimulating T cell immune responses; peptides that do not bind are not presented to T cells and are not immunogenic. This genetic control of the immune response is mediated by the polymorphic sites within the HLA antigen–binding groove that interact with the bound peptides. In autoimmune and immune-mediated diseases, it is likely that specific tissue antigens that are targets for pathogenic lymphocytes are complexed with the HLA molecules encoded by specific susceptibility alleles. In autoimmune diseases with an infectious etiology, it is likely that immune responses to peptides derived from the initiating pathogen are bound and presented by particular HLA molecules to activate T lymphocytes that play a triggering or contributory role in disease pathogenesis. The concept that early events in disease initiation are triggered by specific HLA-peptide complexes offers some prospects for therapeutic intervention, since it may be possible to design compounds that interfere with the formation or function of specific HLA-peptide–T cell receptor interactions.
When considering mechanisms of HLA associations with immune response and disease, it is well to remember that just as HLA genetics are complex, so are the mechanisms likely to be heterogeneous. Immune-mediated disease is a multistep process in which one of the HLA-associated functions is to establish a repertoire of potentially reactive T cells, while another HLA-associated function is to provide the essential peptide-binding specificity for T cell recognition. For diseases with multiple HLA genetic associations, it is possible that both of these interactions occur and synergize to advance an accelerated pathway of disease.