The murine CD94/NKG2 ligand, Qa-1b, is a high-affinity, functional ligand for the CD8αα homodimer

Katharine Jennifer Goodall, Angela Nguyen, Craig McKenzie, Sidonia Barbara Guiomar Eckle, Lucy Catherine Sullivan, Daniel Mark Andrews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


The immune co-receptor CD8 molecule (CD8) has two subunits, CD8α and CD8β, which can assemble into homo or heterodimers. Nonclassical (class-Ib) major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules (MHC-Ibs) have recently been identified as ligands for the CD8αα homodimer. This was demonstrated by the observation that histocompatibility 2, Q region locus 10 (H2-Q10) is a high-affinity ligand for CD8αα which also binds the MHC-Ib molecule H2-TL. This suggests that MHC-Ib proteins may be an extended source of CD8αα ligands. Expression of H2-T3/TL and H2-Q10 is restricted to the small intestine and liver, respectively, yet CD8αα-containing lymphocytes are present more broadly. Therefore, here we sought to determine whether murine CD8αα binds only to tissue-specific MHC-Ib molecules or also to ubiquitously expressed MHC-Ib molecules. Using recombinant proteins and surface plasmon resonance- based binding assays, we show that the MHC-Ib family furnishes multiple binding partners for murine CD8αα, including H2-T22 and the CD94/NKG2-A/B-activating NK receptor (NKG2) ligand Qa-1b. We also demonstrate a hierarchy among MHC-Ib proteins with respect to CD8αα binding, in which Qa-1b > H2-Q10 > TL. Finally, we provide evidence that Qa-1b is a functional ligand for CD8αα, distinguishing it from its human homologue MHC class I antigen E (HLA-E). These findings provide additional clues as to how CD8αα-expressing cells are controlled in different tissues. They also highlight an unexpected immunological divergence of Qa-1b/HLA-E function, indicating the need for more robust studies of murine MHC-Ib proteins as models for human disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3239-3246
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 6 Mar 2020

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