Membrane-anchored β2-microglobulin stabilizes a highly receptive state of MHC class I molecules

Dikla Berko, Yaron Carmi, Gal Cafri, Shimrit Ben-Zaken, Helena Migalovich Sheikhet, Esther Tzehoval, Lea Eisenbach, Alon Margalit, Gideon Gross*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The magnitude of response elicited by CTL-inducing vaccines correlates with the density of MHC class I (MHC-I)-peptide complexes formed on the APC membrane. The MHC-I L chain, β2-microglobulin (β2m), governs complex stability. We reasoned that genetically converting β2m into an integral membrane protein should exert a marked stabilizing effect on the resulting MHC-I molecules and enhance vaccine efficacy. In the present study, we show that expression of membranal human β2m (hβ2m) in mouse RMA-S cells elevates MHC-I thermal stability. RMA-S transfectants bind an exogenous peptide at concentrations 104- to 106-fold lower than parental RMA-S, as detected by complex-specific Abs and by T cell activation. Moreover, saturation of the transfectants' MHC-I by exogenous peptide occurs within 1 min, as compared with ∼1 h required for parental cells. At saturation, however, level of peptide bound by modified cells is only 3- to 5-fold higher. Expression of native hβ2m only results in marginal effect on the binding profile. Soluble β2m has no effect on the accelerated kinetics, but the kinetics of transfectants parallel that of parental cells in the presence of Abs to hβ2m. Ab inhibition and coimmunoprecipitation analyses suggest that both prolonged persistence of peptide-receptive H chain/β2m heterodimers and fast heterodimer formation via lateral diffusion may contribute to stabilization. In vivo, peptide-loaded transfectants are considerably superior to parental cells in suppressing tumor growth. Our findings support the role of an allosteric mechanism in determining ternary MHC-I complex stability and propose membranal β2m as a novel scaffold for CTL induction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2116-2123
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 15 Feb 2005
Externally publishedYes


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