Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II alleles HLA-DQ8 and the mouse homologue I-A(g7) lacking a canonical aspartic acid residue at position beta57 are associated with coeliac disease and type I diabetes. However, the role of this single polymorphism in disease initiation and progression remains poorly understood. The lack of Asp 57 creates a positively charged P9 pocket, which confers a preference for negatively charged peptides. Gluten lacks such peptides, but tissue transglutaminase (TG2) introduces negatively charged residues at defined positions into gluten T-cell epitopes by deamidating specific glutamine residues on the basis of their spacing to proline residues. The commonly accepted model, proposing that HLA-DQ8 simply favours binding of negatively charged peptides, does not take into account the fact that TG2 requires inflammation for activation and that T-cell responses against native gluten peptides are found, particularly in children. Here we show that beta57 polymorphism promotes the recruitment of T-cell receptors bearing a negative signature charge in the complementary determining region 3beta (CDR3beta) during the response against native gluten peptides presented by HLA-DQ8 in coeliac disease. These T cells showed a crossreactive and heteroclitic (stronger) response to deamidated gluten peptides. Furthermore, gluten peptide deamidation extended the T-cell-receptor repertoire by relieving the requirement for a charged residue in CDR3beta. Thus, the lack of a negative charge at position beta57 in MHC class II was met by negatively charged residues in the T-cell receptor or in the peptide, the combination of which might explain the role of HLA-DQ8 in amplifying the T-cell response against dietary gluten.
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