The evolution of HLA specificities has been toward ever-increasing refinement; one example is a subdivision of HLA-B5, the supertype specificity originally defined as 4a. HLA-B5 can now be further subdivided into Bw51 amd Bw52 by serologic means. Whereas the specificity Bw51 can be detected by specific sera, the identification of Bw52 must frequently be deduced from knowledge of B5 and Bw51, although serology has progressed rapidly. There has been no comparable development in identifying fine specificities by cellular cytotoxicity in populations. We have now found that cytotoxic effectors of exquisite specificity can be generated against Bw52 by sensitization of cells from a Bw51 donor and vice versa; Bw51 and Bw52 can in this way be recognized with equal ease. This may set a precedent for recognizing fine specificities of other HLA antigens that cannot yet be identified serologically or can be identified only imprecisely. These fine distinctions may have great relevance in allotransplantation and in understanding disease susceptibility.
This work was supported by United States Public Health Service Grants GM-10356, CA-20531, and TG-CA-09058.