The spondylitis associated HLA-B27 epitope includes a characteristic unpaired cysteine at amino acid position 67. On some B27 molecules the thiol (-SH) side chain of this residue seems to be available for chemical interactions. The possibility that free radicals produced during inflammation might specifically affect this group was investigated in this work. Cells bearing HLA-B27 were exposed to free radicals generated by ultraviolet irradiation or hydrogen peroxide, and HLA antigens were then measured by flow cytometry. Binding of monoclonal antibodies to B27 was not affected. These results do not support a specific susceptibility of HLA-B27 to damage by free radicals, despite its apparently vulnerable structure.
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