Peptide ligand selection by MHC class I molecules, which occurs by iterative optimization, is the centerpiece of immunodominance in antiviral and antitumor immune responses. For its understanding, the molecular mechanisms of peptide binding and dissociation by class I molecules must be elucidated. To this end, we have investigated dipeptides that bind to the F pocket of class I molecules. We find that they accelerate the dissociation of prebound peptides of both low and high affinity, suggesting a mechanism of action for the peptide-exchange chaperone tapasin. Peptide exchange on class I molecules also has practical uses in epitope discovery and T-cell monitoring.
Keywords: MHC tetramers; dipeptides; immunotherapy; peptide exchange; tapasin.