A structurally based approach to determine HLA compatibility at the humoral immune level

Hum Immunol. 2006 Nov;67(11):847-62. doi: 10.1016/j.humimm.2006.08.001. Epub 2006 Sep 1.


HLAMatchmaker is a structurally based matching program. Each HLA antigen is viewed as a string of epitopes represented by short sequences (triplets) involving polymorphic amino acid residues in antibody-accessible positions. HLAMatchmaker determines which triplets are different between donor and recipient, and this algorithm is clinically useful in determining HLA mismatch acceptability. Triplets provide however an incomplete description of the HLA epitope repertoire and expanded criteria must be used including longer sequences and polymorphic residues in discontinuous positions. Such criteria should consider the structural basis of antibody-antigen interactions including contact areas and binding energy, the essence of antigenicity. This report describes the development of a structurally defined HLA epitope repertoire based on stereochemical modeling of crystallized complexes of antibodies and different protein antigens. This analysis considered also data in the literature about contributions of amino acid residues to antigen-antibody binding energy. The results have led to the concept that HLA antigens like other antigenic proteins have structural epitopes consisting of 15-22 residues that constitute the binding face with alloantibody. Each structural epitope has a functional epitope of about 2-5 residues that dominate the strength and specificity of binding with antibody. The remaining residues of a structural epitope provide supplementary interactions that increase the stability of the antigen-antibody complex. Each functional epitope has one or more non-self residues and the term "eplet" is used to describe polymorphic HLA residues within 3.0-3.5 A of a given sequence position on the molecular surface. Many eplets represent short linear sequences identical to those referred to as triplets but others have residues in discontinuous sequence positions that cluster together on the molecular surface. Serologically defined HLA determinants correspond well to eplets. The eplet version of HLAMatchmaker represents therefore a more complete repertoire of structurally defined HLA epitopes and provides a more detailed assessment of HLA compatibility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / analysis
  • Amino Acids / immunology
  • Antibodies / chemistry
  • Antibodies / immunology
  • Antibody Specificity
  • Antigen-Antibody Complex / immunology
  • Binding Sites / genetics
  • Binding Sites / immunology
  • Epitopes / chemistry*
  • Epitopes / immunology*
  • HLA Antigens / immunology*
  • Histocompatibility Testing*
  • Humans
  • Isoantibodies / immunology
  • Models, Molecular
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Amino Acids
  • Antibodies
  • Antigen-Antibody Complex
  • Epitopes
  • HLA Antigens
  • Isoantibodies