Nine major HLA class I supertypes account for the vast preponderance of HLA-A and -B polymorphism

Immunogenetics. 1999 Nov;50(3-4):201-12. doi: 10.1007/s002510050594.


Herein, we review the epitope approach to vaccine development, and discuss how knowledge of HLA supertypes might be used as a tool in the development of such vaccines. After reviewing the main structural features of the A2-, A3-, B7-, and B44- supertype alleles, and biological data demonstrating their immunological relevance, we analyze the frequency at which these supertype alleles are expressed in various ethnicities and discuss the relevance of those observations to vaccine development. Next, the existence of five new supertypes (A1, A24, B27, B58, and B62) is reported. As a result, it is possible to account for the predominance of all known HLA class I with only nine main functional binding specificities. The practical implications of this finding, as well as its relevance to understanding the functional implication of MHC polymorphism in humans, are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Epitopes / immunology
  • HLA-A Antigens / genetics*
  • HLA-A Antigens / immunology
  • HLA-B Antigens / genetics*
  • HLA-B Antigens / immunology
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / genetics*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / immunology
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*


  • Epitopes
  • HLA-A Antigens
  • HLA-B Antigens
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I