Affinity-matured HLA class II dimers for robust staining of antigen-specific CD4+ T cells

Kenji Sugata, Yukiko Matsunaga, Yuki Yamashita, Munehide Nakatsugawa, Tingxi Guo, Levon Halabelian, Yota Ohashi, Kayoko Saso, Muhammed A. Rahman, Mark Anczurowski, Chung Hsi Wang, Kenji Murata, Hiroshi Saijo, Yuki Kagoya, Dalam Ly, Brian D. Burt, Marcus O. Butler, Tak W. Mak, Naoto Hirano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Peptide–major histocompatibility complex (pMHC) multimers enable the detection of antigen-specific T cells in studies ranging from vaccine efficacy to cancer immunotherapy. However, this technology is unreliable when applied to pMHC class II for the detection of CD4+ T cells. Here, using a combination of molecular biological and immunological techniques, we cloned sequences encoding human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DP, HLA-DQ and HLA-DR molecules with enhanced CD4 binding affinity (with a Kd of 8.9 ± 1.1 µM between CD4 and affinity-matured HLA-DP4) and produced affinity-matured class II dimers that stain antigen-specific T cells better than conventional multimers in both in vitro and ex vivo analyses. Using a comprehensive library of dimers for HLA-DP4, which is the most frequent HLA allele in many ancestry groups, we mapped 103 HLA-DP4-restricted epitopes derived from diverse tumor-associated antigens and cloned the cognate T-cell antigen receptor (TCR) genes from in vitro-stimulated CD4+ T cells. The availability of affinity-matured class II dimers across HLA-DP, HLA-DQ and HLA-DR alleles will aid in the investigation of human CD4+ T-cell responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)958-967
Number of pages10
JournalNature Biotechnology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Aug
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Biomedical Engineering


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