Energetics and cooperativity of the hydrogen bonding and anchor interactions that bind peptides to MHC class II protein

J Mol Biol. 2005 Jul 1;350(1):170-83. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2005.04.069.


The complexity of the interaction between major histocompatibility complex class II (MHC II) proteins and peptide ligands has been revealed through structural studies and crystallographic characterization. Peptides bind through side-chain "anchor" interactions with MHC II pockets and an extensive array of genetically conserved hydrogen bonds to the peptide backbone. Here we quantitatively investigate the kinetic hierarchy of these interactions. We present results detailing the impact of single side-chain mutations of peptide anchor residues on dissociation rates, utilizing two I-A(d)-restricted peptides, one of which has a known crystal structure, and 24 natural and non-natural amino acid mutant variants of these peptides. We find that the N-terminal P1, P4 and P6 anchor-pocket interactions can make significant contributions to binding stability. We also investigate the interactions of these peptides with four I-A(d) MHC II proteins, each mutated to disrupt conserved hydrogen bonds to the peptide backbone. These complexes exhibit kinetic behavior suggesting that binding energy is disproportionately invested near the peptide N terminus for backbone hydrogen bonds. We then evaluate the effects of simultaneously modifying both anchor and hydrogen bonding interactions. A quantitative analysis of 71 double mutant cycles reveals that there is little apparent cooperativity between anchor residue interactions and hydrogen bonds, even when they are directly adjacent (<5A).

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alanine / chemistry
  • Alanine / metabolism
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / chemistry*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / metabolism*
  • Hydrogen Bonding
  • Kinetics
  • Ligands
  • Models, Molecular
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Peptide Fragments / chemistry*
  • Peptide Fragments / genetics
  • Peptide Fragments / metabolism*
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary


  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II
  • Ligands
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Alanine