The spectrum of HLA-DQ and HLA-DR alleles, 2006: a listing correlating sequence and structure with function

Immunogenetics. 2007 Jul;59(7):539-53. doi: 10.1007/s00251-007-0224-8. Epub 2007 May 12.


The list of alleles in the HLA-DRB, HLA-DQA, and HLA-DQB gene loci has grown enormously since the last listing in this journal 8 years ago. Crystal structure determination of several human and mouse HLA class II alleles, representative of two gene loci in each species, enables a direct comparison of ortholog and paralog loci. A new numbering system is suggested, extending earlier suggestions by [Fremont et al. in Immunity 8:305-317, (1998)], which will bring in line all the structural features of various gene loci, regardless of animal species. This system allows for structural equivalence of residues from different gene loci. The listing also highlights all amino acid residues participating in the various functions of these molecules, from antigenic peptide binding to homodimer formation, CD4 binding, membrane anchoring, and cytoplasmic signal transduction, indicative of the variety of functions of these molecules. It is remarkable that despite the enormous number of unique alleles listed thus far (DQA = 22, DQB = 54, DRA = 2, and DRB = 409), there is invariance at many specific positions in man, but slightly less so in mouse or rat, despite their much lower number of alleles at each gene locus in the latter two species. Certain key polymorphisms (from substitutions to an eight-residue insertion in the cytoplasmic tail of certain DQB alleles) that have thus far gone unnoticed are highly suggestive of differences or diversities in function and thus call for further investigation into the properties of these specific alleles. This listing is amenable to supplementation by future additions of new alleles and the highlighting of new functions to be discovered, providing thus a unifying platform of reference in all animal species for the MHC class II allelic counterparts, aiding research in the field and furthering our understanding of the functions of these molecules.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Dimerization
  • H-2 Antigens / chemistry
  • H-2 Antigens / genetics
  • H-2 Antigens / physiology
  • HLA-DQ Antigens / chemistry*
  • HLA-DQ Antigens / genetics*
  • HLA-DQ Antigens / physiology
  • HLA-DR Antigens / chemistry*
  • HLA-DR Antigens / genetics*
  • HLA-DR Antigens / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, Protein
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • H-2 Antigens
  • H-2A antigen
  • H-2E(k) antigen
  • HLA-DQ Antigens
  • HLA-DR Antigens