In order to investigate the regions of HLA-A2 that control peptide-specific cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) recognition, 37 HLA-A2 genes coding for 50 point mutations that span the α2 helix were synthesized by the technique of saturation mutagenesis. Twenty-nine of these genes, which code for 41 point mutations, were transfected into C1R cells and used as targets in cytotoxicity assays, in the presence of influenza-A matrix peptide 58-68 with specific CTL as effectors. All the transfectants were recognized fully by matrix peptide-specific CTL apart from those with amino acid substitutions at positions 152, 154, 155, 156, or 161, which led to a total loss of recognition and those with mutations at residue 27 or a double mutation at 138 and 150, which were recognized in an intermediate manner. The clustering of the crucial residues that emerges may reflect direct interaction of their side-chains with peptide or the CTL receptor.
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