Human and mouse class I histocompatibility antigens share considerable structural homology at both the protein and DNA sequence level. This homology has allowed the production of hybrid class I molecules by the reciprocal exchange of DNA sequences corresponding to equivalent domains of HLA-B7 and either H-2Ld or H-2Dd. It is shown that these genes give rise to protein products that are stably expressed on the surface of murine L cells after DNA-mediated gene transfer. These proteins express only those monoclonal antibody-defined H-2 determinants that are expected based on their genetic construction. The molecules have allowed the localization of a number of polymorphic and monomorphic HLA-specific epitopes. In all but one case, expression of an epitope on a domain does not appear to be influenced by the replacement of adjacent human domains with their murine equivalents, suggesting a considerable degree of structural independence of the domains. Cells expressing the hybrid molecules have also been tested as targets for a panel of HLA-B7-specific cytotoxic T cell clones. The results show that the polymorphic determinants recognized by these clones map to the alpha 1 and alpha 2 domains of the HLA-B7 molecule. No evidence for an influence of species-related amino acid sequence differences in the third extracellular domain on T cell recognition was seen. The results are discussed in light of the proposed domain structure of the class I proteins and the potential use of such molecules for further functional studies.

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