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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Induction of HLA-B27 heavy chain homodimer formation after activation in dendritic cells

Susana G Santos1, Sarah Lynch1, Elaine C Campbell1, Antony N Antoniou2 and Simon J Powis1*

Author affiliations

1 Bute Medical School, Westburn Lane, University of St Andrews, Fife, KY16 9TS, UK

2 Department of Immunology and Molecular Pathology, Windeyer Institute of Medical Science, 46 Cleveland St, University College London, London, W1T 4JF, UK

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Citation and License

Arthritis Research & Therapy 2008, 10:R100  doi:10.1186/ar2492

Published: 29 August 2008



Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a severe, chronic inflammatory arthritis, with a strong association to the human major histocompatibilty complex (MHC) class I allele human leucocyte antigen (HLA) B27. Disulfide-linked HLA-B27 heavy-chain homodimers have been implicated as novel structures involved in the aetiology of AS. We have studied the formation of HLA-B27 heavy-chain homodimers in human dendritic cells, which are key antigen-presenting cells and regulators of mammalian immune responses.


Both an in vitro dendritic-like cell line and monocyte-derived dendritic cells from peripheral blood were studied. The KG-1 dendritic-like cell line was transfected with HLA-B27 cDNA constructs, and the cellular distribution, intracellular assembly and ability of HLA-B27 to form heavy-chain homodimers was compared with human monocyte-derived dendritic cells after stimulation with bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS).


Immature KG-1 cells expressing HLA-B27 display an intracellular source of MHC class I heavy-chain homodimers partially overlapping with the Golgi bodies, but not the endoplasmic reticulum, which is lost at cell maturation with phorbyl-12-myristate-13-acetate (PMA) and ionomycin. Significantly, the formation of HLA-B27 homodimers in transfected KG-1 cells is induced by maturation, with a transient induction also seen in LPS-stimulated human monocyte-derived dendritic cells expressing HLA-B27. The weak association of wildtype HLA-B*2705 with the transporter associated with antigen processing could also be enhanced by mutation of residues at position 114 and 116 in the peptide-binding groove to those present in the HLA-B*2706 allele.


We have demonstrated that HLA-B27 heavy-chain homodimer formation can be induced by dendritic cell activation, implying that these novel structures may not be displayed to the immune system at all times. Our data suggests that the behaviour of HLA-B27 on dendritic cells may be important in the study of inflammatory arthritis.