The gastrointestinal tract is populated by a multitude of specialized immune cells endowed with receptors for classical (class Ia) and neoclassical (class Ib) MHC proteins. To identify class I products that engage these receptors and impact immunity/tolerance, we studied gut-transcribed class Ib loci and their polymorphism in inbred, outbred, and wild-derived mice. Intestinal tissues enriched in epithelial cells contained abundant transcripts of ubiquitously expressed and preferentially gut-restricted Q and T class I loci. The latter category included the "blastocyst Mhc" gene, H2-Bl, and its putative paralog, Tw5. Expression of H2-Bl was previously detected only at the maternal/fetal interface, where it was proposed to induce immune tolerance via interactions with CD94/NKG2A receptors. Analysis of coding region polymorphism performed here revealed two major alleles of H2-Bl with conserved residues at positions critical for class I protein folding and peptide binding. Both divergent alleles are maintained in outbred and wild mice under selection for fecundity and pathogen resistance. Surprisingly, we found that alternative splicing of H2-Bl mRNA in gut tissues is prevalent and allele-specific. It leads to strain-dependent expression of diverse repertoires of canonical and noncanonical transcripts that may give rise to distinct ligands for intestinal NK cell, T cell, and/or intraepithelial lymphocyte receptors.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy