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Position 97 of HLA-B, a residue implicated in pathogenesis of ankylosing spondylitis, plays a key role in cell surface free heavy chain expression
  1. Liye Chen,
  2. Hui Shi,
  3. Jack Yuan,
  4. Paul Bowness
  1. Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Liye Chen, Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences, University of Oxford, Windmill Road, Oxford OX3 7LD, UK; liye.chen{at}


Objective Association of position 97 (P97) residue polymorphisms in human leucocyte antigen (HLA)-B, including HLA-B*27, with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) has recently been reported. We studied the effect of P97 variations on cell surface expression of the AS-associated HLA-B*27 and HLA-B*51, and the AS-protective HLA-B*7.

Methods Flow cytometry was used to measure surface expression of HLA-B*27 in C1R/HeLa cells expressing HLA-B*27 (N97) and six mutants at P97 (N97T, N97S, N97V, N97R, N97W and N97D). Transporter associated with antigen processing-deficient T2, tapasin-deficient 220, β2m-deficient HCT15 and endoplasmic reticulum aminopeptidase 1 or β2m-clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/Cas9-knockout HeLa cells were used to provide evidence for specific protein interactions. Surface expression of HLA-B*7/HLA-B*51 P97 mutants was also studied.

Results Mutation of HLA-B*27 P97 to the AS risk residue threonine increased cell surface free heavy chain (FHC) expression. Protective residues (serine or valine) and non-AS-associated residues (arginine or tryptophan) did not alter FHC expression. The N97D mutation reduced expression of conventional and FHC forms of HLA-B*27. Differences in FHC expression levels between HLA-B*27, HLA-B*27-N97T and HLA-B*27-N97D were dependent on the presence of functional β2m. HLA-B*7, which has an AS-protective serine at P97, expressed lower levels of FHC than HLA-B*27 or HLA-B*51. Introduction of asparagine at P97 of both HLA-B*7 and HLA-B*51 increased FHC expression.

Conclusions The nature of P97 residue affects surface expression of HLA-B*27, B*7 and B*51, with AS-associated residues giving rise to higher FHC expression levels. The association of P97 amino acid polymorphisms with AS could be, at least in part, explained by its effect on HLA-B*27 FHC cell surface expression.

  • Ankylosing Spondylitis
  • Gene Polymorphism
  • Autoimmunity

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