Structural changes on the surface of the class I Ag binding domain resulting from point mutations localized inside the Ag binding cleft of the H-2Kb and Kf glycoproteins were revealed using mAb. Both the loss and gain of antibody binding sites found among naturally occurring K glycoproteins resulted from single amino acid substitutions at a variety of different positions buried within the Ag binding groove. Each of the amino acid replacements analyzed represented naturally occurring diversity known to exist among the functional class I Ag-presenting molecules of the mouse. The binding of the affected mAb was not significantly altered in Kb molecules expressed by transfected T2 cells. Because T2 cells have been shown to express Kb molecules that are either largely devoid of bound peptides or bind a vastly different set of low affinity peptides, it is unlikely that the detected structural changes were caused by alterations in the spectrum of peptides bound by the class I variant glycoproteins. Similarly, a class I point mutant, Kb-97R, that also has been shown previously to bind a very different set of peptides in comparison to the parental Kb molecule also displays normal antibody binding properties. We conclude from these studies that structural diversity within the Ag binding cleft indirectly influences the external surface of the Ag-presenting domain of the class I H chain. Significantly, this surface is the interface between the T cell receptor and MHC molecules and may make contributions to the fine specificity of allorecognition.

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