From chickens to humans: The importance of peptide repertoires for MHC class I alleles

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In humans, killer immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs), expressed on natural killer(NK) and thymus-derived (T) cells, and their ligands, primarily the classical class I molecules of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) expressed on nearly all cells, are both polymorphic. The variation of this receptor-ligand interaction, based on which alleles have been inherited, is known to play crucial roles in resistance to infectious disease, autoimmunity and reproduction in humans. However, not all the variation in response is inherited, since KIR binding can be affected by a portion of the peptide bound to the class I molecules, with the particular peptide presented affecting the NK response. The extent to which the large multigene family of chicken immunoglobulin-like receptors (ChIRs) is involved in functions similar to KIRs is suspected but not proven. However, much is understood about the two MHC-I molecules encoded in the chicken MHC. The BF2 molecule is expressed at a high level and is thought to be the predominant ligand of cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs), while the BF1 molecule is expressed at a much lower level if at all, and is thought to be primarily a ligand for NK cells. Recently, a hierarchy of BF2 alleles with a suite of correlated properties has been defined, from those expressed at a high level on the cell surface but with a narrow range of bound peptides to those expressed at a lower level on the cell surface but with a very wide repertoire of bound peptides. Interestingly, there is a similar hierarchy for human class I alleles, although the hierarchy is not as wide. It is a question whether KIRs and ChIRs recognise class I molecules with bound peptide in a similar way, and whether fastidious to promiscuous hierarchy of class I molecules affect both T and NK cell function. Such effects might be different from those predicted by the similarities of peptide-binding based on peptide motifs, as enshrined in the idea of super types. Since the size of peptide repertoire can be very different for alleles with similar peptide motifs from the same super type, the relative importance of these two properties may be testable.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2020


  • epistasis
  • avian immunology
  • immunopeptidomics
  • B locus
  • BF-BL region
  • minimal essential major histocompatibility complex


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