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Front Immunol. 2013 Nov 14;4:374. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2013.00374. eCollection 2013.

Complementarity of Binding Motifs is a General Property of HLA-A and HLA-B Molecules and Does Not Seem to Effect HLA Haplotype Composition.

Frontiers in immunology

Xiangyu Rao, Rob J De Boer, Debbie van Baarle, Martin Maiers, Can Kesmir


  1. Theoretical Biology and Bioinformatics, Utrecht University , Utrecht , Netherlands.

PMID: 24294213 PMCID: PMC3827838 DOI: 10.3389/fimmu.2013.00374


Different human leukocyte antigen (HLA) haplotypes (i.e., the specific combinations of HLA-A, -B, -DR alleles inherited together from one parent) are observed in different frequencies in human populations. Some haplotypes, like HLA-A1-B8, are very frequent, reaching up to 10% in the Caucasian population, while others are very rare. Numerous studies have identified associations between HLA haplotypes and diseases, and differences in haplotype frequencies can in part be explained by these associations: the stronger the association with a severe (autoimmune) disease, the lower the expected HLA haplotype frequency. The peptide repertoires of the HLA molecules composing a haplotype can also influence the frequency of a haplotype. For example, it would seem advantageous to have HLA molecules with non-overlapping binding specificities within a haplotype, as individuals expressing such an haplotype would present a diverse set of peptides from viruses and pathogenic bacteria on the cell surface. To test this hypothesis, we collect the proteome data from a set of common viruses, and estimate the total ligand repertoire of HLA class I haplotypes (HLA-A-B) using in silico predictions. We compare the size of these repertoires to the HLA haplotype frequencies reported in the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP). We find that in most HLA-A and HLA-B pairs have fairly distinct binding motifs, and that the observed haplotypes do not contain HLA-A and -B molecules with more distinct binding motifs than random HLA-A and HLA-B pairs. In addition, the population frequency of a haplotype is not correlated to the distinctness of its HLA-A and HLA-B peptide binding motifs. These results suggest that there is a not a strong selection pressure on the haplotype level favoring haplotypes having HLA molecules with distinct binding motifs, which would result the largest possible presented peptide repertoires in the context of infectious diseases.

Keywords: HLA antigens; bioinformatics; computational biology; genetic; haplotypes; peptide binding; selection


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