Peptide-MHC class II complex stability governs CD4 T cell clonal selection

J Immunol. 2010 Jan 15;184(2):573-81. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0902107. Epub 2009 Dec 9.


The clonal composition of the T cell response can affect its ability to mediate infection control or to induce autoimmunity, but the mechanisms regulating the responding TCR repertoire remain poorly defined. In this study, we immunized mice with wild-type or mutated peptides displaying varying binding half-lives with MHC class II molecules to measure the impact of peptide-MHC class II stability on the clonal composition of the CD4 T cell response. We found that, although all peptides elicited similar T cell response size on immunization, the clonotypic diversity of the CD4 T cell response correlated directly with the half-life of the immunizing peptide. Peptides with short half-lives focused CD4 T cell response toward high-affinity clonotypes expressing restricted public TCR, whereas peptides with longer half-lives broadened CD4 T cell response by recruiting lower-affinity clonotypes expressing more diverse TCR. Peptides with longer half-lives did not cause the elimination of high-affinity clonotypes, and at a low dose, they also skewed CD4 T cell response toward higher-affinity clonotypes. Taken collectively, our results suggest the half-life of peptide-MHC class II complexes is the primary parameter that dictates the clonotypic diversity of the responding CD4 T cell compartment.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmunity
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Clone Cells / immunology
  • Half-Life
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / immunology*
  • Immunization
  • Mice
  • Mutation
  • Peptides / genetics
  • Peptides / immunology*
  • Protein Stability


  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II
  • Peptides