Background. Cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) contribute to the rejection of transplanted tissues through two pathways: first, by direct recognition of foreign graft major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules; and second, by recognition of foreign graft-derived peptides presented by classical MHC class Ia molecules that are matched between graft and donor. However, a number of observations suggest that additional categories of CTL recognition patterns may exist, but they remain to be defined molecularly. Methods. Previous studies showed that the murine nonclassical MHC molecule H2 M3 may be involved in allorecognition. We investigated whether other members of nonclassical MHC class Ib, namely Qa1 and Qa2, may be recognized. Alloreactive CTLs were generated from mice mismatched for non-MHC and/or MHC genetic backgrounds and tested using various target cells, including cells transfected with Qa1 or Qa2. Furthermore, candidate peptides were synthesized and used to generate CTLs specific for peptide presented by Qa1 or Qa2. Results. The experiments demonstrate that allogeneic and xenogeneic peptides were recognized by CTLs when presented on shared nonclassical MHC class Ib Qa1 and Qa2 molecules. Conclusions. The results confirm that MHC class Ib molecules present peptides to CTLs. This potentially important alloreactivity pathway may be functional between most individuals because sharing of MHC class Ib alleles is frequent.
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