Modification of the cyclopropyl moiety of abacavir provides insight into the structure activity relationship between HLA-B*57:01 binding and T-cell activation

Paul J. Thomson, Patricia T. Illing, John Farrell, Mohammad Alhaidari, Catherine C. Bell, Neil Berry, Paul M. O’Neill, Anthony W. Purcell, Kevin B. Park, Dean J. Naisbitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Abacavir is associated with hypersensitivity reactions in individuals positive for the HLA-B*57:01 allele. The drug binds within the peptide binding groove of HLA-B*57:01 altering peptides displayed on the cell surface. Presentation of these HLA-abacavir-peptide complexes to T-cells is hypothesized to trigger a CD8+ T-cell response underpinning the hypersensitivity. Thus, the aim of this study was to explore the relationship between the structure of abacavir with HLA-B*57:01 binding and the CD8+ T-cell activation. Methods: Seventeen abacavir analogues were synthesized and cytokine secretion from abacavir/abacavir analogue-responsive CD8+ T-cell clones was measured using IFN-γ ELIspot. In silico docking studies were undertaken to assess the predicted binding poses of the abacavir analogues within the HLA-B*57:01 peptide binding groove. In parallel, the effect of selected abacavir analogues on the repertoire of self-peptides presented by cellular HLA-B*57:01 was characterized using mass spectrometry. Results: Abacavir and ten analogues stimulated CD8+ T-cell IFN-γ release. Molecular docking of analogues that retained antiviral activity demonstrated a relationship between predicted HLA-B*57:01 binding orientations and the ability to induce a T-cell response. Analogues that stimulated T-cells displayed a perturbation of the natural peptides displayed by HLA-B*57:01. The antigen-specific CD8+ T-cell response was dependent on the enantiomeric form of abacavir at both cyclopropyl and cyclopentyl regions. Conclusion: Alteration of the chemical constitution of abacavir generates analogues that retain a degree of pharmacological activity, but have variable ability to activate T-cells. Modelling and immunopeptidome analysis delineate how drug HLA-B*57:01 binding and peptide display by antigen presenting cells relate to the activation of CD8+ T-cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)636-647
Number of pages12
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • drug hypersensitivity
  • HLA
  • human
  • mass spectrometry
  • T-cells

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