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1.  HLA variants related to primary sclerosing cholangitis influence rejection after liver transplantation 
AIM: To investigate influence of human leukocyte antigen (HLA) and killer immunoglobuline-like receptor (KIR) genotypes on risks of acute rejection (AR) after liver transplantation (LTX).
METHODS: In this retrospective study we included 143 adult donor-recipient pairs with a minimum of 6 mo follow-up after LTX for whom DNA was available from both donor and recipients. Clinical data, all early complications including episodes and severity of AR and graft/patient survival were registered. The diagnosis of AR was based on clinical, biochemical and histological criteria. All suspected episodes of AR were biopsy confirmed. Key classical HLA loci (HLA-A, HLA-B, HLA-C and HLA-DRB1) were genotyped using Sanger sequencing. 16 KIR genes were genotyped using a novel real time PCR approach which allows for determination of the diploid copy number of each KIR gene. Immunohistochemical staining for T (CD3), B (CD20) and natural killer (NK) cells (CD56 and CD57) were performed on liver biopsies from 3 different patient groups [primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), primary biliary cirrhosis and non-autoimmune liver disease], 10 in each group, with similar grade of AR.
RESULTS: Fourty-four (31%) patients were transplanted on the basis of PSC, 40% of them had AR vs 24% in the non-PSC group (P = 0.04). No significant impact of donor-recipient matching for HLA and KIR genotypes was detected. In the overall recipient population an increased risk of AR was detected for HLA-B*08 (P = 0.002, OR = 2.5; 95%CI: 1.4-4.6), HLA-C*07 (P = 0.001, OR = 2.4; 95%CI: 1.4-4.0) and HLA-DRB1*03 (P = 0.03, OR = 1.9; 95%CI: 1.0-3.3) and a decreased risk for HLA-DRB1*04 (P = 0.001, OR = 0.2; 95%CI: 0.1-0.5). For HLA-B*08, HLA-C*07 and DRB1*04 the associations remained evident in a subgroup analysis of non-PSC recipients (P = 0.04, P = 0.003 and P = 0.02, respectively). In PSC recipients corresponding P values were 0.002, 0.17 and 0.01 for HLA-B*08, HLA-C*07 and DRB1*04, respectively. A dosage effect of AR prevalence according to the PSC associated HLA alleles was also notable in the total recipient population. For HLA-B*08 the frequency of AR was 56% in HLA-B*08 homozygous recipients, 39% in heterozygous recipients and 21% in recipients lacking HLA-B*08 (P = 0.02). The same was observed for the HLA-C*07 allele with AR in 57%, 27% and 18% in recipients being homozygous, heterozygous and lacking HLA-C*07 respectively (P = 0.003). Immunohistochemical analysis showed similar infiltration of T, B and NK cells in biopsies with AR in all three groups.
CONCLUSION: We found significant associations between the PSC-associated HLA-B*08, HLA-C*07, HLA-DRB1*03 and HLA-DRB1*04 alleles and risk of AR in liver transplant recipients.
PMCID: PMC3983454  PMID: 24744588
Liver transplantation; Primary sclerosing cholangitis; Acute rejection; Human leukocyte antigen; Killer immunoglobulin-like receptor
2.  A hybrid qPCR/SNP array approach allows cost efficient assessment of KIR gene copy numbers in large samples 
BMC Genomics  2014;15:274.
Killer Immunoglobulin-like Receptors (KIRs) are surface receptors of natural killer cells that bind to their corresponding Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) class I ligands, making them interesting candidate genes for HLA-associated autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes (T1D). However, allelic and copy number variation in the KIR region effectively mask it from standard genome-wide association studies: single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) probes targeting the region are often discarded by standard genotype callers since they exhibit variable cluster numbers. Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (qPCR) assays address this issue. However, their cost is prohibitive at the sample sizes required for detecting effects typically observed in complex genetic diseases.
We propose a more powerful and cost-effective alternative, which combines signals from SNPs with more than three clusters found in existing datasets, with qPCR on a subset of samples. First, we showed that noise and batch effects in multiplexed qPCR assays are addressed through normalisation and simultaneous copy number calling of multiple genes. Then, we used supervised classification to impute copy numbers of specific KIR genes from SNP signals. We applied this method to assess copy number variation in two KIR genes, KIR3DL1 and KIR3DS1, which are suitable candidates for T1D susceptibility since they encode the only KIR molecules known to bind with HLA-Bw4 epitopes. We find no association between KIR3DL1/3DS1 copy number and T1D in 6744 cases and 5362 controls; a sample size twenty-fold larger than in any previous KIR association study. Due to our sample size, we can exclude odds ratios larger than 1.1 for the common KIR3DL1/3DS1 copy number groups at the 5% significance level.
We found no evidence of association of KIR3DL1/3DS1 copy number with T1D, either overall or dependent on HLA-Bw4 epitope. Five other KIR genes, KIR2DS4, KIR2DL3, KIR2DL5, KIR2DS5 and KIR2DS1, in high linkage disequilibrium with KIR3DL1 and KIR3DS1, are also unlikely to be significantly associated. Our approach could potentially be applied to other KIR genes to allow cost effective assaying of gene copy number in large samples.
PMCID: PMC4029094  PMID: 24720548
KIR3DL1; KIR3DS1; KIR2DS4; KIR2DL3; KIR2DL5; KIR2DS5; KIR2DS1; HLA-Bw4; CNV; qPCR; ImmunoChip; KIR; Imputation; T1D
3.  LILRB2 Interaction with HLA Class I Correlates with Control of HIV-1 Infection 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(3):e1004196.
Natural progression of HIV-1 infection depends on genetic variation in the human major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I locus, and the CD8+ T cell response is thought to be a primary mechanism of this effect. However, polymorphism within the MHC may also alter innate immune activity against human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) by changing interactions of human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I molecules with leukocyte immunoglobulin-like receptors (LILR), a group of immunoregulatory receptors mainly expressed on myelomonocytic cells including dendritic cells (DCs). We used previously characterized HLA allotype-specific binding capacities of LILRB1 and LILRB2 as well as data from a large cohort of HIV-1-infected individuals (N = 5126) to test whether LILR-HLA class I interactions influence viral load in HIV-1 infection. Our analyses in persons of European descent, the largest ethnic group examined, show that the effect of HLA-B alleles on HIV-1 control correlates with the binding strength between corresponding HLA-B allotypes and LILRB2 (p = 10−2). Moreover, overall binding strength of LILRB2 to classical HLA class I allotypes, defined by the HLA-A/B/C genotypes in each patient, positively associates with viral replication in the absence of therapy in patients of both European (p = 10−11–10−9) and African (p = 10−5–10−3) descent. This effect appears to be driven by variations in LILRB2 binding affinities to HLA-B and is independent of individual class I allelic effects that are not related to the LILRB2 function. Correspondingly, in vitro experiments suggest that strong LILRB2-HLA binding negatively affects antigen-presenting properties of DCs. Thus, we propose an impact of LILRB2 on HIV-1 disease outcomes through altered regulation of DCs by LILRB2-HLA engagement.
Author Summary
Leukocyte immunoglobulin-like receptors B1 and B2 (LILRB1 and LILRB2) bind HLA class I allotypes with variable affinities. Here, we show that the binding strength of LILRB2 to HLA class I positively associates with level of viremia in a large cohort of untreated HIV-1-infected patients. This effect appears to be driven by HLA-B polymorphism and demonstrates independence from class I allelic effects on viral load. Our in vitro experiments suggest that strong LILRB2-HLA binding negatively affects antigen-presenting properties of dendritic cells (DCs). Thus, we propose an impact of LILRB2 on HIV-1 immune control through altered regulation of DCs by LILRB2-HLA engagement.
PMCID: PMC3945438  PMID: 24603468
4.  Killer-cell Immunoglobulin-like Receptor gene linkage and copy number variation analysis by droplet digital PCR 
Genome Medicine  2014;6(3):20.
The Killer-cell Immunoglobulin-like Receptor (KIR) gene complex has considerable biomedical importance. Patterns of polymorphism in the KIR region include variability in the gene content of haplotypes and diverse structural arrangements. Droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) was used to identify different haplotype motifs and to enumerate KIR copy number variants (CNVs). ddPCR detected a variety of KIR haplotype configurations in DNA from well-characterized cell lines. Mendelian segregation of ddPCR-estimated KIR2DL5 CNVs was observed in Gambian families and CNV typing of other KIRs was shown to be accurate when compared to an established quantitative PCR method.
PMCID: PMC4062048  PMID: 24597950
5.  Copy number and nucleotide variation of the LILR family of myelomonocytic cell activating and inhibitory receptors 
Immunogenetics  2013;66:73-83.
Leukocyte immunoglobulin-like receptors (LILR) are cell surface molecules that regulate the activities of myelomonocytic cells through the balance of inhibitory and activation signals. LILR genes are located within the leukocyte receptor complex (LRC) on chromosome 19q13.4 adjacent to KIR genes, which are subject to allelic and copy number variation (CNV). LILRB3 (ILT5) and LILRA6 (ILT8) are highly polymorphic receptors with similar extracellular domains. LILRB3 contains inhibitory ITIM motifs and LILRA6 is coupled to an adaptor with activating ITAM motifs. We analysed the sequences of the extracellular immunoglobulin domain-encoding regions of LILRB3 and LILRA6 in 20 individuals, and determined the copy number of these receptors, in addition to those of other members of the LILR family. We found 41 polymorphic sites within the extracellular domains of LILRB3 and LILRA6. Twenty-four of these sites were common to both receptors. LILRA6, but not LILRB3, exhibited CNV. In 20 out of 48 human cell lines from the International Histocompatibility Working Group, LILRA6 was deleted or duplicated. The only other LILR gene exhibiting genomic aberration was LILRA3, in this case due to a partial deletion.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00251-013-0742-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3894450  PMID: 24257760
LILR; ILT; CNV; Haplotype
6.  Butyrophilin Btn2a2 inhibits T cell receptor activation, PI3K/Akt pathway signaling, and induces Foxp3 expression in T lymphocytes 
The butyrophilin-related protein Btn2a2 was up-regulated on murine antigen presenting cells including CD19+ B cells, CD11b+ F4/80+ peritoneal macrophages, and CD11c+ bone marrow-derived dendritic cells after activation with LPS or Pam3CysK4, suggesting a role in modulation of T lymphocytes. Consistent with this, binding of mouse Btn2a2-Fc to CD3+ primary mouse T cells stimulated with anti-CD3 and anti-CD28 reduced the number of proliferating cells and entry of cells into the cell cycle. Binding of Btn2a2-Fc to anti-CD3− stimulated T cells inhibited CD3ε, Zap70, and subsequent Erk1/2 activation. It also interfered with activation of the regulatory subunit of PI3K, p85, and activation of Akt in T cells stimulated with both anti-CD3 and anti-CD28. Inhibition of Akt activation by Btn2a2-Fc was, in contrast to inhibition by PD-L1-Fc, not overcome by anti-CD28 co-stimulation. Using Foxp3-GFP transgenic, naïve T cells, Btn2a2-Fc induced de novo expression of Foxp3 in a dose-dependent manner and Btn2a2-Fc-induced CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ T cells had inhibitory properties. The data indicate an important physiological role for Btn2a2 in inhibiting T cell activation and inducing Foxp3+ regulatory T cells.
PMCID: PMC3736090  PMID: 23589618
T cells; Co-stimulation; Suppression; Signal Transduction
7.  A Novel Family of Human Leukocyte Antigen Class II Receptors May Have Its Origin in Archaic Human Species* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2013;289(2):639-653.
Background: How are isotype-mixed HLA class II heterodimers selected from the large pool of α-β subunit combinations?
Results: Two critical sequences in DPβ and the chaperone invariant chain control assembly of isotype-mixed HLA-DRαDPβ heterodimers.
Conclusion: A substantial proportion of HLA-DPβ allotypes, with the DPβ motif Lys-69/GGPM-(84–87), form matched heterodimers with DRα.
Significance: This DPβ motif was also found in the genome of Neanderthals, hinting at its origin.
HLA class II α and β chains form receptors for antigen presentation to CD4+ T cells. Numerous pairings of class II α and β subunits from the wide range of haplotypes and isotypes may form, but most of these combinations, in particular those produced by isotype mixing, yielded mismatched dimers. It is unclear how selection of functional receptors is achieved. At the atomic level, it is not known which interactions of class II residues regulate selection of matched αβ heterodimers and the evolutionary origin of matched isotype mixed dimer formation. In this study we investigated assembly of isotype-mixed HLA class II α and β heterodimers. Assembly and carbohydrate maturation of various HLA-class II isotype-mixed α and β subunits was dependent on the groove binding section of the invariant chain (Ii). By mutation of polymorphic DPβ sequences, we identified two motifs, Lys-69 and GGPM-(84–87), that are engaged in Ii-dependent assembly of DPβ with DRα. We identified five members of a family of DPβ chains containing Lys-69 and GGPM 84–87, which assemble with DRα. The Lys/GGPM motif is present in the DPβ sequence of the Neanderthal genome, and this ancient sequence is related to the human allele DPB1*0401. By site-directed mutagenesis, we inspected Neanderthal amino acid residues that differ from the DPB1*0401 allele and aimed to determine whether matched heterodimers are formed by assembly of DPβ mutants with DRα. Because the *0401 allele is rare in the sub-Saharan population but frequent in the European population, it may have arisen in modern humans by admixture with Neanderthals in Europe.
PMCID: PMC3887193  PMID: 24214983
Antigen Presentation; Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC); Protein Assembly; Protein Domains; Protein Evolution; HLA Class II; Invariant Chain
8.  Correction: Characterisation of Bovine Leukocyte Ig-like Receptors 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):10.1371/annotation/cfb0e8b5-3815-46c1-997b-c6267ba4856b.
PMCID: PMC3414627
9.  Structural Requirements for Recognition of Major Histocompatibility Complex Class II by Membrane-associated RING-CH (MARCH) Protein E3 Ligases* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2012;287(34):28779-28789.
Background: Ubiquitination is essential for regulation of MHC class II molecules.
Results: Multiple elements in the transmembrane region of HLA-DR influence interaction with MARCH8.
Conclusion: Sequences in the TM region of MHC class II molecules control recognition by different MARCH E3 ligases.
Significance: MHC class II isotypes are subject to differential post-translational regulation by different MARCH E3 ligases.
MARCH E3 ligases play a key role in controlling MHC class II surface expression by regulated ubiquitination of a lysine residue in the β-chain. Little is known concerning how these enzymes target their specific substrates. Here we show that recognition of HLA-DR by MARCH proteins is complex. Several features associated with the transmembrane domain and bordering regions influence the overall efficiency of receptor internalization. A cluster of residues at the interface of the lipid bilayer and the cytosol plays the most important role in MARCH8 recognition of HLA-DRβ. Variation in this sequence also determines specificity of MARCH9 for HLA-DQ. Residues located in helical face four of HLA-DRβ together with a charged residue at the boundary with the stalk region also contribute significantly to recognition. Truncation analysis suggested that a dileucine-like motif in the DRβ cytoplasmic tail influences the efficiency of co-localization of HLA-DR with MARCH8. The DRβ-encoded acceptor lysine functioned optimally when placed in its natural location relative to the bilayer. In the DRα/DRβ dimer most other amino acids in the cytoplasmic tail could be substituted for alanine with minimal influence on function. Our data support a model whereby multiple features of HLA-DR are involved in substrate recognition by MARCH8. The single most important region is located at the interface between the transmembrane domain and the cytosol. Variation in sequence in this location between different class II isotypes controls efficiency of recognition by different MARCH E3 ligases.
PMCID: PMC3436574  PMID: 22761441
Antigen Presentation; Immunology; Protein Targeting; Protein Turnover; Ubiquitination; MARCH E3 Ligase; MHC Class II; Transmembrane Domain
10.  Characterisation of Bovine Leukocyte Ig-like Receptors 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e34291.
Leukocyte Immunoglobulin-like receptors (LILR) are innate immune receptors involved in regulating both innate and adaptive immune functions. LILR show more interspecies conservation than the closely related Killer Ig-like receptors, and homologues have been identified in rodents, primates, seals and chickens. The murine equivalents, paired Ig-like receptors (PIR), contain two additional immunoglobulin domains, but show strong sequence and functional similarities to human LILR. The bovine genome was recently sequenced, with preliminary annotations indicating that LILR were present in this species. We therefore sought to identify and characterize novel LILR within the Bos taurus genome, compare these phylogenetically with LILR from other species and determine whether they were expressed in vivo. Twenty six potential bovine LILR were initially identified using BLAST and BLAT software. Phylogenetic analysis constructed using the neighbour-joining method, incorporating pairwise deletion and confidence limits estimated from 1000 replicates using bootstrapping, indicated that 16 of these represent novel bovine LILR. Protein structures defined using protein BLAST predict that the bovine LILR family comprises seven putative inhibitory, four activating and five soluble receptors. Preliminary expression analysis was performed by mapping the predicted sequences with raw data from total transcript sequence generated using Genome Analyzer IIx (Illumina) to provide evidence that all 16 of these receptors are expressed in vivo. The bovine receptor family appears to contain receptors which resemble the six domain rodent PIR as well as the four domain LILR found in other species.
PMCID: PMC3317502  PMID: 22485161
11.  NKG2D ligand tumor expression and association with clinical outcome in early breast cancer patients: an observational study 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:24.
Cell surface NKG2D ligands (NKG2DL) bind to the activating NKG2D receptor present on NK cells and subsets of T cells, thus playing a role in initiating an immune response. We examined tumor expression and prognostic effect of NKG2DL in breast cancer patients.
Our study population (n = 677) consisted of all breast cancer patients primarily treated with surgery in our center between 1985 and 1994. Formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tumor tissue was immunohistochemically stained with antibodies directed against MIC-A/MIC-B (MIC-AB), ULBP-1, ULBP-2, ULBP-3, ULBP-4, and ULBP-5.
NKG2DL were frequently expressed by tumors (MIC-AB, 50% of the cases; ULBP-1, 90%; ULBP-2, 99%; ULBP-3, 100%; ULBP-4, 26%; ULBP-5, 90%) and often showed co-expression: MIC-AB and ULBP-4 (p = 0.043), ULBP-1 and ULBP-5 (p = 0.006), ULBP-4 and ULBP-5 (p < 0.001). MIC-AB (p = 0.001) and ULBP-2 (p = 0.006) expression resulted in a statistically significant longer relapse free period (RFP). Combined expression of these ligands showed to be an independent prognostic parameter for RFP (p < 0.001, HR 0.41). Combined expression of all ligands showed no associations with clinical outcome.
We demonstrated for the first time that NKG2DL are frequently expressed and often co-expressed in breast cancer. Expression of MIC-AB and ULBP-2 resulted in a statistically significant beneficial outcome concerning RFP with high discriminative power. Combination of all NKG2DL showed no additive or interactive effect of ligands on each other, suggesting that similar and co-operative functioning of all NKG2DL can not be assumed. Our observations suggest that among driving forces in breast cancer outcome are immune activation on one site and tumor immune escape on the other site.
PMCID: PMC3292504  PMID: 22257486
ULBP; MIC; NKG2D ligand; breast cancer; immune evasion
12.  Ubiquitination of Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA)-DM by Different Membrane-associated RING-CH (MARCH) Protein Family E3 Ligases Targets Different Endocytic Pathways* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2012;287(10):7256-7264.
Background: HLA-DM plays an essential role in MHC class II antigen presentation.
Results: MARCH family E3 ligases regulate HLA-DM trafficking by direct ubiquitination of DMα and indirectly through a tyrosine-based targeting signal.
Conclusion: Ubiquitination is a common mechanism regulating both classical and nonclassical MHC molecules.
Significance: HLA-DM activity can be controlled post-translationally allowing the immune system to adapt to different conditions.
HLA-DM plays an essential role in the peptide loading of classical class II molecules and is present both at the cell surface and in late endosomal peptide-loading compartments. Trafficking of DM within antigen-presenting cells is complex and is, in part, controlled by a tyrosine-based targeting signal present in the cytoplasmic tail of DMβ. Here, we show that DM also undergoes post-translational modification through ubiquitination of a single lysine residue present in the cytoplasmic tail of the α chain, DMα. Ubiquitination of DM by MARCH1 and MARCH9 induced loss of DM molecules from the cell surface by a mechanism that cumulatively involved both direct attachment of ubiquitin chains to DMα and a functional tyrosine-based signal on DMβ. In contrast, MARCH8-induced loss of surface DM was entirely dependent upon the tyrosine signal on DMβ. In the absence of this tyrosine residue, levels of DM remained unchanged irrespective of whether DMα was ubiquitinated by MARCH8. The influence of MARCH8 was indirect and may have resulted from modification of components of the endocytic machinery by ubiquitination.
PMCID: PMC3293585  PMID: 22247549
Immunology; Membrane Proteins; Protein Turnover; Ubiquitination; Western Blotting; HLA-DM
14.  Anaesthetic Impairment of Immune Function Is Mediated via GABAA Receptors 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(2):e17152.
GABAA receptors are members of the Cys-loop family of neurotransmitter receptors, proteins which are responsible for fast synaptic transmission, and are the site of action of wide range of drugs [1]. Recent work has shown that Cys-loop receptors are present on immune cells, but their physiological roles and the effects of drugs that modify their function in the innate immune system are currently unclear [2]. We are interested in how and why anaesthetics increase infections in intensive care patients; a serious problem as more than 50% of patients with severe sepsis will die [3]–[6]. As many anaesthetics act via GABAA receptors [7], the aim of this study was to determine if these receptors are present on immune cells, and could play a role in immunocompromising patients.
Principal Findings
We demonstrate, using RT-PCR, that monocytes express GABAA receptors constructed of α1, α4, β2, γ1 and/or δ subunits. Whole cell patch clamp electrophysiological studies show that GABA can activate these receptors, resulting in the opening of a chloride-selective channel; activation is inhibited by the GABAA receptor antagonists bicuculline and picrotoxin, but not enhanced by the positive modulator diazepam. The anaesthetic drugs propofol and thiopental, which can act via GABAA receptors, impaired monocyte function in classic immunological chemotaxis and phagocytosis assays, an effect reversed by bicuculline and picrotoxin.
Our results show that functional GABAA receptors are present on monocytes with properties similar to CNS GABAA receptors. The functional data provide a possible explanation as to why chronic propofol and thiopental administration can increase the risk of infection in critically ill patients: their action on GABAA receptors inhibits normal monocyte behaviour. The data also suggest a potential solution: monocyte GABAA receptors are insensitive to diazepam, thus the use of benzodiazepines as an alternative anesthetising agent may be advantageous where infection is a life threatening problem.
PMCID: PMC3044756  PMID: 21390329
15.  NKG2D Ligand MICA Is Retained in the cis-Golgi Apparatus by Human Cytomegalovirus Protein UL142▿  
Journal of Virology  2009;83(23):12345-12354.
Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) evades T-cell recognition by down-regulating expression of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I and II molecules on the surfaces of infected cells. Contrary to the “missing-self” hypothesis, HCMV-infected cells are refractory to lysis by natural killer (NK) cells. Inhibition of NK cell function is mediated by a number of HCMV immune evasion molecules, which operate by delivering inhibitory signals to NK cells and preventing engagement of activating ligands. One such molecule is UL142, which is an MHC class I-related glycoprotein encoded by clinical isolates and low-passage-number strains of HCMV. UL142 is known to down-modulate surface expression of MHC class I-related chain A (MICA), which is a ligand of the activating NK receptor NKG2D. However, the mechanism by which UL142 interferes with MICA is unknown. Here, we show that UL142 localizes predominantly to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and cis-Golgi apparatus. The transmembrane domain of UL142 mediates its ER localization, while we propose that the UL142 luminal domain is involved in its cis-Golgi localization. We also confirm that UL142 down-modulates surface expression of full-length MICA alleles while having no effect on the truncated allele MICA*008. However, we demonstrate for the first time that UL142 retains full-length MICA alleles in the cis-Golgi apparatus. In addition, we propose that UL142 interacts with nascent MICA en route to the cell surface but not mature MICA at the cell surface. Our data also demonstrate that the UL142 luminal and transmembrane domains are involved in recognition and intracellular sequestration of full-length MICA alleles.
PMCID: PMC2786768  PMID: 19793804
16.  NKG2D Ligand Expression in Human Colorectal Cancer Reveals Associations with Prognosis and Evidence for Immunoediting 
NKG2D binds to cellular ligands of the MIC and ULBP/RAET family. These ligands have restricted expression in normal tissue, but are frequently expressed on primary tumors. The role of NKG2D ligands is thought to be important in carcinogenesis but prognostic impact has not been investigated in such a large cohort.
Experimental Design:
In our study 462 primary colorectal tumors were screened for expression of all MIC / ULBP / RAET proteins and NK cell infiltration. Tumor microarray technology was used for the purpose of this investigation.
NKG2D ligands were expressed by the majority of colorectal tumors; however the level of expression varied considerably. High expression of MIC (68 versus 56 months) or RAET1G (74 versus 62 months) demonstrated improved patient survival. Tumors expressing high levels of MIC and RAET1G showed improved survival of 77 months over tumors that expressed high levels of one ligand or low levels of both. High-level expression of all ligands was frequent in TNM stage 1 tumors, but became progressively less frequent in stage 2, 3 and 4 tumors. Expression of MIC was correlated with NK cellular infiltration.
The observations presented are consistent with an immunoediting mechanism that selects tumor cells that have lost or reduced their expression of NKG2D ligands. Combination of MIC and TNM stage was found to be the strongest predictor of survival splitting patients into 8 groups and suggesting prognostic value in clinical assessment. Of particular interest were stage 1 patients with low expression of MIC who had a similar survival to stage 3 patients, and may be candidates for adjuvant therapy.
PMCID: PMC2778653  PMID: 19861434
NKG2D; colorectal cancer; tissue microarray
17.  Mechanisms of copy number variation and hybrid gene formation in the KIR immune gene complex 
Human Molecular Genetics  2009;19(5):737-751.
The fine-scale structure of the majority of copy number variation (CNV) regions remains unknown. The killer immunoglobulin receptor (KIR) gene complex exhibits significant CNV. The evolutionary plasticity of the KIRs and their broad biomedical relevance makes it important to understand how these immune receptors evolve. In this paper, we describe haplotype re-arrangement creating novel loci at the KIR complex. We completely sequenced, after fosmid cloning, two rare contracted haplotypes. Evidence of frequent hybrid KIR genes in samples from many populations suggested that re-arrangements may be frequent and selectively advantageous. We propose mechanisms for formation of novel hybrid KIR genes, facilitated by protrusive non-B DNA structures at transposon recombination sites. The heightened propensity to generate novel hybrid KIR receptors may provide a proactive evolutionary measure, to militate against pathogen evasion or subversion. We propose that CNV in KIR is an evolutionary strategy, which KIR typing for disease association must take into account.
PMCID: PMC2816608  PMID: 19959527
18.  The inhibitory receptor LILRB4 (ILT3) modulates antigen presenting cell phenotype and, along with LILRB2 (ILT4), is upregulated in response to Salmonella infection 
BMC Immunology  2009;10:56.
Leukocyte Ig-like receptors (LILR) are a family of innate immune receptors with immunomodulatory functions. High-level expression of the receptors LILRB2 (ILT4) and LILRB4 (ILT3) is a feature of tolerogenic antigen presenting cells and has been observed in cancer and transplant situations. There are relatively few studies regarding these receptors in the context of infection and it is not yet clear how LILRB4 exerts its inhibitory effects.
We studied the effects of LILRB4 ligation on antigen presenting cell phenotype, and the expression of LILRB2 and LILRB4 on Salmonella-infected antigen presenting cells. Ligation of LILRB4 throughout in vitro culture of dendritic cells led to an upregulation of the co-stimulatory protein CD86. Alterations in the production of IL-8 and IL-10 by LILRB4-ligated macrophages were also observed. Infection with Salmonella typhimurium or TLR stimulation with Salmonella components led to an upregulation of LILRB2 and LILRB4.
Our results indicate that the inhibitory effects of LILRB4 do not result from a failure to upregulate co-stimulatory proteins. In addition to the high level expression that can render antigen presenting cells tolerogenic, there may be a role for lower level expression and activity of LILRB2 and LILRB4 in response to TLR signalling during an immune response to bacterial infection.
PMCID: PMC2773765  PMID: 19860908
19.  A high resolution HLA and SNP haplotype map for disease association studies in the extended human MHC 
Nature genetics  2006;38(10):1166-1172.
The proteins encoded by the classical HLA class I and class II genes in the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) are highly polymorphic and play an essential role in self/non-self immune recognition. HLA variation is a crucial determinant of transplant rejection and susceptibility to a large number of infectious and autoimmune disease1. Yet identification of causal variants is problematic due to linkage disequilibrium (LD) that extends across multiple HLA and non-HLA genes in the MHC2,3. We therefore set out to characterize the LD patterns between the highly polymorphic HLA genes and background variation by typing the classical HLA genes and >7,500 common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and deletion/insertion polymorphisms (DIPs) across four population samples. The analysis provides informative tag SNPs that capture some of the variation in the MHC region and that could be used in initial disease association studies, and provides new insight into the evolutionary dynamics and ancestral origins of the HLA loci and their haplotypes.
PMCID: PMC2670196  PMID: 16998491
20.  Correction: Cellular Expression, Trafficking, and Function of Two Isoforms of Human ULBP5/RAET1G 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(3):10.1371/annotation/34238ee8-5128-4f1d-9ae2-6906c9764e49.
PMCID: PMC2669223
21.  Correction: Cellular Expression, Trafficking, and Function of Two Isoforms of Human ULBP5/RAET1G 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(3):10.1371/annotation/8501cd33-6c9e-437c-9ea1-f96fbb4140d6.
PMCID: PMC2669219
22.  The HLA-DRα Chain Is Modified by Polyubiquitination* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2009;284(11):7007-7016.
Ubiquitination plays a major role in regulating cell surface and intracellular localization of major histocompatibility complex class II molecules. Two E3 ligases, MARCH I and MARCH VIII, have been shown to polyubiquitinate lysine residue 225 in the cytoplasmic tail of I-Aβ and HLA-DRβ. We show that lysine residue 219 in the cytoplasmic tail of DRα is also subject to polyubiquitination. Each chain of the HLA-DR heterodimer is independently recognized and ubiquitinated, but DRβ is more extensively modified. In the cytoplasmic tail of DRβ lysine, residue 225 is the only residue that is absolutely required for ubiquitination; all other residues can be deleted or substituted without loss of function. In contrast, although lysine 219 is absolutely required for modification of DRα, other features of the DRα tail act to limit the extent of ubiquitination.
PMCID: PMC2652342  PMID: 19117940
23.  Cellular Expression, Trafficking, and Function of Two Isoforms of Human ULBP5/RAET1G 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(2):e4503.
The activating immunoreceptor NKG2D is expressed on Natural Killer (NK) cells and subsets of T cells. NKG2D contributes to anti-tumour and anti-viral immune responses in vitro and in vivo. The ligands for NKG2D in humans are diverse proteins of the MIC and ULBP/RAET families that are upregulated on the surface of virally infected cells and tumours. Two splicing variants of ULBP5/RAET1G have been cloned previously, but not extensively characterised.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We pursue a number of approaches to characterise the expression, trafficking, and function of the two isoforms of ULBP5/RAET1G. We show that both transcripts are frequently expressed in cell lines derived from epithelial cancers, and in primary breast cancers. The full-length transcript, RAET1G1, is predicted to encode a molecule with transmembrane and cytoplasmic domains that are unique amongst NKG2D ligands. Using specific anti-RAET1G1 antiserum to stain tissue microarrays we show that RAET1G1 expression is highly restricted in normal tissues. RAET1G1 was expressed at a low level in normal gastrointestinal epithelial cells in a similar pattern to MICA. Both RAET1G1 and MICA showed increased expression in the gut of patients with celiac disease. In contrast to healthy tissues the RAET1G1 antiserum stained a wide variety or different primary tumour sections. Both endogenously expressed and transfected RAET1G1 was mainly found inside the cell, with a minority of the protein reaching the cell surface. Conversely the truncated splicing variant of RAET1G2 was shown to encode a soluble molecule that could be secreted from cells. Secreted RAET1G2 was shown to downregulate NKG2D receptor expression on NK cells and hence may represent a novel tumour immune evasion strategy.
We demonstrate that the expression patterns of ULBP5RAET1G are very similar to the well-characterised NKG2D ligand, MICA. However the two isoforms of ULBP5/RAET1G have very different cellular localisations that are likely to reflect unique functionality.
PMCID: PMC2637608  PMID: 19223974
24.  Variation analysis and gene annotation of eight MHC haplotypes: The MHC Haplotype Project 
Immunogenetics  2008;60(1):1-18.
The human major histocompatibility complex (MHC) is contained within about 4 Mb on the short arm of chromosome 6 and is recognised as the most variable region in the human genome. The primary aim of the MHC Haplotype Project was to provide a comprehensively annotated reference sequence of a single, human leukocyte antigen-homozygous MHC haplotype and to use it as a basis against which variations could be assessed from seven other similarly homozygous cell lines, representative of the most common MHC haplotypes in the European population. Comparison of the haplotype sequences, including four haplotypes not previously analysed, resulted in the identification of >44,000 variations, both substitutions and indels (insertions and deletions), which have been submitted to the dbSNP database. The gene annotation uncovered haplotype-specific differences and confirmed the presence of more than 300 loci, including over 160 protein-coding genes. Combined analysis of the variation and annotation datasets revealed 122 gene loci with coding substitutions of which 97 were non-synonymous. The haplotype (A3-B7-DR15; PGF cell line) designated as the new MHC reference sequence, has been incorporated into the human genome assembly (NCBI35 and subsequent builds), and constitutes the largest single-haplotype sequence of the human genome to date. The extensive variation and annotation data derived from the analysis of seven further haplotypes have been made publicly available and provide a framework and resource for future association studies of all MHC-associated diseases and transplant medicine.
PMCID: PMC2206249  PMID: 18193213
Major histocompatibility complex; Haplotype; Polymorphism; Retroelement; Genetic predisposition to disease; Population genetics
25.  Splice variation in the cytoplasmic domains of myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein affects its cellular localisation and transport1 
Journal of Neurochemistry  2007;102(6):1853-1862.
Although myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein is a candidate autoantigen in multiple sclerosis, its function remains unknown. In humans, mRNA expressed by the myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein gene is alternatively spliced resulting in at least nine unique protein isoforms. In this study, we investigated the sub-cellular localisation and membrane trafficking of six isoforms by cloning them into mammalian expression vectors. Confocal microscopy revealed that these protein products are expressed in different cellular compartments. While two full-length isoforms (25.6 and 25.1) are expressed at the cell surface, three alternatively spliced forms (22.7, 21.0 and 20.5) have a more intracellular distribution, localising to the endoplasmic reticulum and/or endosomes. Isoform 16.3, which lacks a transmembrane domain, is secreted. A switch in the sub-cellular localisation of myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein may have profound effects on receptor:ligand interactions and consequently the function of the protein. The structural features of the alternative isoforms and their differential, sub-cellular expression patterns could dictate the exposure of major immunogenic determinants within the central nervous system. Our findings highlight myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein splicing as a factor that could be critical to the phenotypic expression of multiple sclerosis.
PMCID: PMC2156149  PMID: 17573820
alternative splicing; cellular trafficking; human; multiple sclerosis; myelin

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