To identify epitopes recognized by alloreactive CTL we have examined H-2Kb-specific CTL for their recognition of synthetic peptides with sequences derived from the native Kb class I molecule. Consecutive nested peptides spanning the immunogenic alpha 1 and alpha 2 domains of Kb were tested for their capacity to inhibit CTL clones in their recognition of cells expressing the native Kb molecule. Inhibition by these peptides was found to be an extremely rare event. One peptide (Kb.111-122) did inhibit recognition by one particular CTL clone, clone 13. Upon further investigation it was observed that clone 13 also recognized peptide Kb.111-122 when presented in the context of the syngeneic MHC molecule, Kd. Considering that residues 111 to 122 are located at the base of the antigen groove, and clone 13 is able to recognize Kb.111-122 when presented by syngeneic target cells, we suggest that inhibition of this CTL clone may be due to MHC restricted, self-presentation of peptide rather than to direct binding of free peptide to the TCR. Taken together, these results suggest inhibition of allospecific CTL by MHC peptides is a rare event at least for Kb recognition. Furthermore, they demonstrate the need for caution when interpreting inhibition by peptide as evidence for recognition by the TCR of the corresponding region on the native molecule.

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