Discriminative T-cell receptor recognition of highly homologous HLA-DQ2– bound gluten epitopes

Shiva Dahal-Koirala, Laura Ciacchi, Jan Petersen, Louise Fremgaard Risnes, Ralf Stefan Neumann, Asbjørn Christophersen, Knut E.A. Lundin, Hugh H. Reid, Shuo Wang Qiao, Jamie Rossjohn, Ludvig M. Sollid

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17 Citations (Scopus)


Celiac disease (CeD) provides an opportunity to study the specificity underlying human T-cell responses to an array of similar epitopes presented by the same human leukocyte antigen II (HLA-II) molecule. Here, we investigated T-cell responses to the two immunodominant and highly homologous HLA-DQ2.5–restri-cted gluten epitopes, DQ2.5-glia-1a (PFPQPELPY) and DQ2.5-glia-1 (PFPQPEQPF). Using HLA-DQ2.5–DQ2.5-glia-1a and HLA-DQ2.5–DQ2.5-glia-1 tetramers and single-cell T-cell receptor (TCR) sequencing, we observed that despite similarity in biased variable-gene usage in the TCR repertoire responding to these nearly identical peptide–HLA-II complexes, most of the T cells are specific for either of the two epitopes. To understand the molecular basis of this exquisite fine specificity, we undertook Ala substitution assays revealing that the p7 residue (Leu/Gln) is critical for specific epitope recognition by both DQ2.5-glia-1a– and DQ2.5-glia-1–reactive T-cell clones. We determined high-resolution binary crystal structures of HLA-DQ2.5 bound to DQ2.5-glia-1a (2.0 Å) and DQ2.5-glia-1 (2.6 Å). These structures disclosed that differences around the p7 residue subtly alter the neighboring substructure and electrostatic properties of the HLA-DQ2.5–peptide complex, providing the fine specificity underlying the responses against these two highly homologous gluten epitopes. This study underscores the ability of TCRs to recognize subtle differences in the peptide–HLA-II landscape in a human disease setting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)941-952
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2019

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